Tenice Johnson Appointed To Two-Year Berth On Montclair Council

As things came down to the wire, the four-fifths strength Montclair City Council on Wednesday came to an accommodation on appointing a fifth member, settling at last upon appointing Planning Commission Chairwoman Tenice Johnson to the post.
The election of then-Council Member Javier “John” Dutrey as Montclair mayor in November resulted in a vacancy on the city council when he was sworn into office at a special meeting of the city council on December 10, 2018. Pursuant to Government Code Section 36512(b), the city council is required to “within 60 days from the commencement of the vacancy, either fill the vacancy by appointment or call a special election to fill the vacancy,” meaning the city council had to make the appointment by today, Friday February 8, 2019, or schedule an election.
At is meeting on December 3, 2018, the city council selected the option of making an at–large appointment to the vacancy on December 10, 2018. Efforts at the December 10 meeting by Councilwomen Carolyn Raft and Trisha Martinez to appoint former Mayor Virginia Eaton to the council did not garner the support of Dutrey or Councilman Bill Ruh, and subsequent efforts to arrive at a consensus at the December 17, January 7 and January 22 meetings also failed.
At the council’s January 22, 2019 meeting, its members approved an application and interview process to facilitate making an appointment to the city council vacancy, and continued the item until Monday, at its February 4, 2019 regular meeting. At that meeting the council resolved to meet on Tuesday February 5 at an already advertised venue in the council chambers, to interview and consider all thirteen residents who had submitted themselves for consideration. Those 13 were Victor Mendez Charles F. Krewina II, Josie Garcia, Former Mayor Virginia Eaton, Cinty Katherine Sanchez, Sousan D. Elias, Loren Robert Martens, Laura Page Milhiser, Benjamin Lopez, Carolyn Tenice Johnson, Edgar Gallegos, Joseph A. Nicoara and Sergio Sahagun, Sr.
At the February 5, 2019 special meeting of the City Council, all 13 Council applicants were interviewed by the City Council. The City Council then adjourned the special meeting to Wednesday, February 6, at 5:30 p.m. On Wednesday evening, after a round of deliberation, Johnson, a member of the planning commission since 1998 and Montclair’s Woman of the Year in 2014, was selected on a 3-to-1 vote, with Mayor Dutrey and council members Raft and Martinez in favor and Councilman Bill Ruh, who thought it better for the matter to go to a citywide vote, dissenting.
On Thursday, Johnson told the Sentinel, “I was stunned. There were so many phenomenal candidates, 13 people who were well qualified to be in that seat. I was certain I wasn’t going to be the one chosen. When the mayor said I had the three votes, I was in disbelief. I don’t know if you ever had the experience where you know what you have seen but you are thinking ‘It can’t be right.’ It was like that. I was stunned. It has really just started to set in with me.”
Johnson said, “It was an arduous process, and I feel most privileged and honored to be able to continue my work to improve the City of Montclair in my new role, as a councilperson.”
The circumstances in which she comes into office after a series of events that began with Mayor Paul Eaton’s retirement after 23 years in office due to health challenges followed by his death, Johnson said, were atypical in Montclair. “We have always had a pretty stable council,” she observed, saying that if there has been any change in that it was “because of the recent turnover brought on by the passing of our beloved mayor, Paul Eaton. That was a sad transition. The good news about the council is every member, everyone of us, has at heart what we feel individually is best for Montclair. I know I will be working doubly hard going forward, toward the betterment of the lifestyle of the people in the city.”
She said one of the advantages to the council choosing her is that there will be no learning curve on her part and no adjustment time the council will need to get used to her presence. “I am not new to them or the community,” she said. “I have well over 25 years of being involved in the city. It has been a pretty long road. There is a lot of work I have done in conjunction with the council. I have sat on boards and committees with them. From time to time, some of us have not always seen things together in the same way or eye-to-eye, but we have always done what is right for the people or we are at least always trying to do what we felt and believed was right. On that you can say we have done a good job.”
She said Montclair, the second smallest of San Bernardino County’s cities geographically, should not be judged on size alone.
“Even though we’re only 5.5 square miles, we are dynamic, and we are advancing in what we are,” Johnson said. “We are drawing a lot to us. We are becoming a transportation hub and a five star hotel may be in the offing near the rail corridor. In that area of north Montclair you have seen in just the last four or five years some pretty dense residential uses, apartments.”
She said the intensification of land use in the city is the wave of the future. “You have seen that the new generation of home buyers, the Millennials, are not particularly interested in wanting to live the way we baby boomers did, with an expansive yard outside the house. Millennials are not interested in mowing the lawn on weekends. They don’t want to have to worry about fixing a leaky roof. The neighborhoods that are coming in will be more dense. We will continue to grow. That is the positive we’re trying to move toward. You have Millennials who are moving out and they want to embrace their independence. We have welcomed some pretty creative developers into the city. They are adept at working smaller and smaller lots, allowing housing and industrial/commercial uses into the tight space available. They are showing us how to develop under those types of constrains. We can’t continue to put in one-story apartments. With adjustment, there is room for growth over the next several years.”
-Mark Gutglueck

Leave a Reply