Montclair Seeks Consensus On One-Year Council Replacement

The Monclair City Council next Monday, November 4, will set about filling the gap within its ranks brought on by the death of Councilwoman Trish Martinez on September 21.
At the meeting, the four remaining members of the council – Mayor John Dutrey, Councilwoman Carolyn Raft, Councilwoman Tenice Johnson and Councilman Bill Ruh – will consider the applicants for the position and determine which of them will be interviewed in a specially called meeting of the council on November 12. The general idea is that based on those interviews and the curriculum vitae that each council hopeful presents the council will be able to come to a consensus as to who is to replace Martinez. In the course of the meeting, the council is anticipated to give direction to City Clerk Andrea Phillips to randomly determine the order in which the applicants who pass muster on November 4 will be interviewed on November 12.
According to Councilwoman Raft, individuals who had indicated an interest in the appointment the council made earlier this year were contacted to see if they would again apply.  That earlier vacancy came about as a consequence of the November 2018 mayoral contest in which two incumbent council members, Raft and John Dutrey vied, along with Sousan Elias and Kelly Smith. Ultimately, Dutrey prevailed in that race, garnering 3,681 votes or 49.85 percent to Raft’s 2,623 votes or 35.59 percent and Elias’s and Smith’s combined total of 14.66 percent. Because Dutrey had been reelected to the city council in 2016, he yet had two years remaining on his council term. He resigned from that post to accept the mayoral gavel. Ultimately, the council chose Tenice Johnson, the chairwoman of the Montclair Planning Commission, to take up the place she now holds on the council dais.
The Sentinel is informed that potential candidates this year are Victor Mendez, Loren Robert Martens, Benjamin Lopez, Cinty Katherine Sanchez, Sousan D. Elias, Laura Page Milhiser, Juliet Orozco, Charles F. Krewina II, Sergio Sahagun, Sr, Josie Garcia, Virginia Eaton, Joseph A. Nicoara,  Edgar Gallegos and former Councilman Leonard Paulitz.
Laura Milhiser’s husband, Mike, was formerly Montclair’s city manager and is currently a member of the Monte Vista Water District Board of Directors.
Benjamin Lopez ran for the council in 2014, 2016 and 2018, finishing in third place each time. His father is Monte Vista Water District Board Member Tony Lopez. The younger Lopez is politically gregarious, and is on a first name basis with a dozen local municipal and county elected officials and familiar with a score of others.
Juliet Orozco ran for city council in 2016 and 2018.
Sousan Elias is the proprietor of three businesses in Montclair – Dragon’s Tale Brewery, Bourbon Squares Handcrafted Chocolates and Casual Closers Mobile Notary Service – as well as a former mayoral candidate who advocated that Montclair actively seek having a hotel or motel locate in the city.
Virginia Eaton is the widow of late Montclair Mayor Paul Eaton. She served on the council in an appointed capacity last year following her husband’s passing.
The appointee will serve until an election to fill the position is held next November, in conjunction with the November 2020 presidential election, with that victor serving out the last two years of the term Martinez was elected to in 2018. If the council fails to make a choice of Martinez’s successor, the city will then hold a special election which may or may not correspond with the March 3, 2020 California Primary.

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