Joe Named New Mayor; Mahmud Gets 2nd Spot

Bob Joe at Wednesday night’s City Council meeting, where he was named mayor for the 2019-20 term, succeeding Marina Khubesrian. Council Member Diana Mahmud was named mayor pro tem. Photo by Skye Hannah

Bob Joe is South Pasadena’s new mayor, and Wednesday night’s vote by the City Council was, at least officially, unanimous.

Unofficially, Joe — most recently the mayor pro tem — ascended to the big seat with four “yes” votes and one “I think so!” vote.

The latter came from Joe himself, as he injected a touch of levity into the annual reorganization of the five-member City Council.

Of course, Joe’s vote goes into the books as a “yes,” and he became mayor by a 5-0 margin, succeeding now-Council Member Marina Khubesrian.

It’s Joe’s second turn as mayor since he was elected to the City Council in 2011. He most recently was mayor in the 2014-15 term. He said he prefers being called “Bob,” rather than “Robert,” in print.

Council Member Diana Mahmud was named as mayor pro tem, also by a 5-0 vote, likely putting her in line to become mayor next year, though that is not an automatic ascension process.

It might as well have been an automatic process on Wednesday, as the whole reorganization of the city’s new hierarchy was completed in less than five minutes, with no debate or discussion.

Mahmud made the motion for Joe to become mayor, and it was quickly seconded by Council Member Michael Cacciotti.

Council Member Richard Schneider made the motion for Mahmud to move up to mayor pro tem, and Cacciotti seconded that as well. Mahmud, first elected to the council in 2013, was mayor for the 2015-16 term.

Both votes confirming the nominations proceeded quickly and perfunctorily.

Khubesrian presided over the rest of the regular council meeting, filling the mayor’s role. Joe will move into the council’s center chair and begin presiding over meetings beginning with the body’s next session, on Dec. 18.

“I want to thank my fellow council members — independent thinkers, a fantastic group,’’ Joe said after the votes. “I really appreciate the confidence you have in me.”

As for how he plans to put his stamp on the job, Joe released a statement Thursday outlining various goals, focusing on three main areas: development, fiscal sustainability and “accessibility.”

Some highlights:

Regarding development:

• “With our General Plan community outreach wrapping up, it is important that we incorporate appropriate feedback into the document and move toward council approval.’’

• “The General Plan is a critical document to guide development in our city over the next decade and beyond.”

• “I want to see contracts move forward on the affordable housing agreements for the Caltrans properties.’’

• “I’m very pleased with the progress so far on the Caltrans properties, and we need to keep it moving so that qualified homeowners can finally take possession of those homes.’’

• “We also have a tremendous opportunity to utilize the regional transportation funding available from Metro. If possible, I would like to see construction contracts for major transportation projects in place by next year.”

On fiscal sustainability:

• “We are in a much better position thanks to Measure A, which was approved by voters in November. We will start to see revenue from Measure A (a local sales tax) later in the year.’’

• “Now it is up to the council and staff to be good stewards of the funding and ensure that it is spent in the public’s best interest.’’

• “We must continue to pursue strategies that support our existing businesses and attract new businesses.’’

• “We will also need to take a fresh look at the Utility Users Tax as it comes up for renewal, and decide whether to renew the tax or find another long-term revenue source.’’

Regarding “accessibility’’:

• “As a small city, our government is already more accessible than many larger cities. But I believe we can do better.’’

• “I want to ensure that our residents feel engaged and welcome in the governing process.’’

• “One of the ways we engage our residents is through participation in city commissions.’’

• “I want to encourage stronger dialogue between our commissions and our city departments.’’

• “I believe we can enhance customer service by breaking down the silos between city departments and taking a more collaborative approach.’’

• “In that spirit of collaboration, I will be asking our staff to jointly review key policies and procedures and bring them back to the council for updates.’’

Joe is a retired employee of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, where he was a senior-ranking civilian. His area was project management. He also was a former group manager for the Metropolitan Water District.

He has served on the South Pasadena Transportation Commission, Design Advisory Group, Parks and Recreation Commission, and Freeway and Transportation Commission. He also served on the Friends of Chinatown Library Advisory Board and Chinatown Library Board of Directors.

Mahmud, only the eighth woman to serve on the South Pas City Council, is an attorney who is retired from the Metropolitan Water District. She also worked as an attorney for the L.A. Department of Water and Power, and was a former criminal prosecutor.

New Water Bills

Are On The Way

City Manager Stephanie DeWolfe announced at Wednesday’s council meeting that residents can expect water bills from the city’s new billing contractor starting next week.

The new contractor, Munibilling, succeeded Fathom, which abruptly went out of business and left the city scrambling to find a new biller.

“The bills will look different, but they’re very easy to read,’’ DeWolfe said. “We don’t anticipate anybody having any challenges understanding the new bills.’’

DeWolfe said all the bills will be coming in the mail initially, but that customers who wish to pay and receive bills online need only go to the Munibilling website and set up accounts.

She also said that any customers with outstanding Fathom bills should pay them directly to the city, not to Fathom.