Jerry Clay era nears an end on Atascadero council -- or does it?

Jerry Clay
Jerry Clay The Tribune

As three incumbents on Atascadero’s City Council are sworn into office Tuesday night, a fourth may be saying goodbye.

However, the meeting may also play out like a game of musical chairs.

Councilman Jerry Clay, on the council since 1996, didn’t seek re-election in November when his seat on the five-member council expired. 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, he said.

But Clay would like to be appointed to Councilman Tom O’Malley’s seat – which has two years left on it – as O’Malley takes his new position as the city’s first popularly elected mayor.

“I’ve still got the fire in my belly and I’d really like to see the Walmart thing to an end,” Clay, 78, said.

Earlier this year, the council approved plans by Wal-Mart Stores Inc. to build a store on the north side of town after many years of debate. Residents then sued the city over the decision, prompting further delays of the store’s construction.

Back on the City Council, Kelley ran for a council seat after publically agreeing earlier this year not to run for mayor in the November election so he wouldn’t have an unfair advantage as the incumbent. O’Malley ran for mayor unopposed.

The council has a number of options to determine how to fill O’Malley’s seat.

Members could nominate candidates and vote to fill the vacancy Tuesday, determine an application process or call for a special election, according to a report by city staff.

The price for a consolidated special election could range between $35,000 and $85,000, according to the city.

The council has 60 days from Tuesday to make a decision.