In a surprising move to some, former Planning Commissioner Heather Moreno was appointed to the Atascadero City Council on Tuesday night.
Moreno, 45, will finish the remaining two years on Tom O’Malley’s seat. He left the seat mid-term for his new position as the city’s first popularly elected mayor.
A handful of public speakers at the meeting said they wanted outgoing Councilman Jerry Clay to be appointed. He also expressed his desire to be appointed to O’Malley’s seat.
Clay, whose term expired Tuesday, didn’t seek re-election in November because, he said, he didn’t want to take votes away from his colleagues Councilwoman Roberta Fonzi and Mayor Bob Kelley who were seeking the two open council seats.
Fonzi, Kelley, O'Malley — and later, Moreno — were all sworn in Tuesday.
Moreno and Clay were the only two nominees mentioned at the meeting.
Meanwhile, Clay, 78, was honored by several speakers, the council and city staff. Clay made a short speech about his favorite memories on the council and received a standing ovation from the crowd. The city also prepared a photo slideshow and speech about his 16 years on the council and decades of volunteerism in the community.
Council members Fonzi and Brian Sturtevant said that although they respect and appreciate Clay, they thought it was in the city's best interest to appoint someone who represented the younger generation.
"We’re not all grey-hairs but we’re getting there and young families in the community are underrepresented at this given time," Fonzi said.
Moreno's involvement in the local business market was also a good fit, Sturtevant said. "(Being a) young professional and female would add a little bit more dynamic to the group," he added.
As she threw her name into the ring during public comment, Moreno said she is well aware that being on the council requires time and research.
"It's a commitment I’m willing and ready to make," she said.
The council voted 3-1 to appoint Moreno, with Kelley dissenting. Kelley supported bringing Clay back to the council.
Moreno served as a mid-term planning commissioner for Atascadero from 2008 to 2010. She also served as the commission's chairwoman.
She is a local certified public accountant and runs her own local wellness coaching business called PeopleFit USA.