A large yellow sign was positioned near the cake and coffee on Monday night in the Arroyo Grande City Council chambers, reading: "Thank you AG. Jim Hill."
Hill's supporters created the sign, and many of them attended Monday's special meeting where Hill — a write-in challenger who beat longtime Mayor Tony Ferrara in the Nov. 4 election — was sworn in and seated.
"I'm very deeply touched to be here," Hill said after he was seated behind the dais. "I so deeply appreciate all the support I've been given."
After thanking his wife, supporters, and city staff, Hill thanked Ferrara's supporters, "who voted for him in good conscience. I am going to try my best to represent you and your interests."
Newly elected Councilwoman Barbara Harmon and Councilman Tim Brown, who was re-elected, also took the oath of office.
The celebratory meeting capped off a contentious election season that gained momentum after news of a July 3 incident involving the city manager and a subordinate came to light.
City Manager Steve Adams later said he and Community Development Director Teresa McClish were drinking tea at City Hall that night to sober up after having some wine at local restaurants.
A recent investigation criticized Adams for poor judgment but did not find any substantive evidence that would point to an inappropriate or romantic relationship between the pair.
Adams on Oct. 2 announced his intention to resign; the council accepted his resignation and placed him on paid administrative leave Nov. 19.
That incident — and many residents’ anger over the way the City Council handled it, with some alleging an attempted cover-up — served as a catalyst for Hill's campaign.
Brown and Hill said they hoped the community can heal and move forward.
"We have a choice to make," Brown said, choking up as he spoke. "We keep talking about wanting to turn the page. The real question is, are we going to do it, and the proof of that is in our actions."
He asked residents to give the council time to succeed.
Added Harmon: "Let's all take a moment to recall what we love about our town and use that as a means to unite us and move us all forward."
Outgoing Councilman Joe Costello was honored at the meeting for his 12 years on the council.
"It takes everyone working together for the city to move forward," Costello said as he thanked his family, city staff, council members and the residents of Arroyo Grande.
Ferrara, who was also honored, resigned Friday and did not attend the event.
Councilman Jim Guthrie recognized Ferrara for his involvement in a 2003 general plan that has provided the framework for the city ever since.
"He (Ferrara) was part of a change that is current to the one that is going on now," Brown added. "There was a need for change then and he was a huge part of it."
The newly seated council will meet again soon as they seek interim and permanent managers to replace Adams.
Administrative Services Director Debbie Malicoat, the city’s current acting manager, said the council will hold a closed session meeting later this week to review the process for selecting an interim manager.
Then, Malicoat said, she will bring a narrowed-down list of possible interim managers to the council in closed session on Dec. 9.
Also at that meeting, the council is expected to select a consultant to handle the recruitment process for a permanent manager.