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Ione City Council Debuts Three New Faces

By Liz MacLeod

Three new faces made their debut on the Ione City Council, as the newly elected candidates were sworn in Dec. 5

Jim Ulm, Jeff Barnhart and Lee Ard are filling positions left vacant by councilmen Gary Thomas and Gerry Podesta and Mayor Jennifer Germolus-Dean.

The official election results revealed the following vote tallies: Ard, 690; Barnhart, 733; Oral Custer, 393; Chester “Skip” Schaufel, 580; Ulm, 765; and write-ins, 47.

City Clerk Janice Traverso swore in the new councilmen by administering the Oath of Office. Awards of appreciation were also presented to the outgoing council members.

Once Ard, Barnhart and Ulm took their seats at the podium, an election was held among the council to appoint a mayor and vice mayor.

Ulm motioned to nominate Councilman Jerry Sherman for the mayor position. The motion was approved 4-1, with Ard voting against the decision. Barnhart motioned to nominate Councilwoman Bonham to continue in her role as vice mayor. The motion was passed unanimously.

Thomas and Germolus-Dean had some parting words for the new councilmen.

“I´m sure the new council will have fun serving the city,” Thomas said. “I wish them the best of luck.”

Germolus-Dean shared this bit of advice, borrowed in part from Abraham Lincoln: “One thing I learned that was true is that ´You can please some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can´t please all of the people all of the time.´

“My best wishes to the new council,” she added.

This is the first time Ard and Barnhart have taken a seat on the Ione City Council. Ulm, on the other hand, brings some experience to the seat, as he had been on the council in years past.

The freshmen councilmen were immediate in upholding their election platforms, particularly with regard to the improvement of accountability in the local government. The councilmen were asking for more information about a number of agenda items and hesitant to pass motions without detailed discussion.

The agenda item regarding the switch from a city administrator form of government to a city manager form of government was deferred to a later date when the new councilmen will better understand the issues involved.

“I would like the council to be comfortable with the difference between a city administrator and a city manager,” said Dominic Atlan, an Ione resident and course professional at Castle Oaks Golf Course.

It might take a while for the new council to master the protocol. The evening´s meeting, although mostly smooth, was not free of glitches.

During the request for future agenda items, Barnhart requested an emergency closed door session the following Saturday morning. It was stated by Sherman that the city attorney and administrator were not required to attend.

Lambert stated that it was not appropriate to make personnel decisions without the input of the city administrator and on a weekend. “If you´re intending to operate the council the way you´re proposing,” he said, “I´d just as soon resign tonight.”

“The city administrator does need to be in the loop,” Bonham said.

“It´s shocking you would choose to have a closed session without advisement from the administrator,” Lambert said. “In 30 years I´ve never had a situation like this occur without the attorney present.”

The tension was diffused when Barnhart said he´d only been on the council two hours. It was decided that the closed session will occur before the next regularly scheduled meeting Dec. 19, with attorney and administrator present.

Ulm spoke to the Ledger Dispatch about his first night on the council. “It was a normal night, maybe a little excessive,” he said. “When you have new people on, they don´t really know the protocol. It will take a while, it always does.”

He said the details of the job will become more clear once the new councilmen participate in a three day educational session, scheduled to take place in early January. “Having a new mayor, everybody´s on a learning curve,” he said. “Other than that, I think it´s going pretty good.”

Ard expressed similar sentiments. “I think the first night went really well,” he said. “There is more interaction and the council taking charge of the situation rather then the situation taking charge. We have a lot of work ahead of us, but we have a good council.”

Ard mentioned his request for a planning meeting in January and also reaffirmed his goal to develop the downtown area.

“It´s gonna be a lot of hard work,” Ard said, “but I´m looking forward to it.”

Reprinted with permission from Amador Ledger Dispatch