HESPERIA - Councilman Eric Schmidt said serving the citizens of Hesperia has been an honor and something he truly enjoyed with all his heart.
"It was a gratifying feeling to work with a team of policy makers to make Hesperia a better place," said Schmidt, who will finish out his four-year term Tuesday. "When I made the decision to run for Council I held onto my belief that when I was in service to my fellow man - I was also in service to my Lord."
Schmidt, who came up short in his bid for re-election against Larry Bird and Rebekah Swanson in November, told the Daily Press the loss hit him hard, but promised he would still be involved in the community.
"The day after the election, I had several groups and individuals reach out and asked me if I'd like to be on their board of directors," said Schmidt, who is the president of Exquadrum in Adelanto. "I'm humbled by the invitation, but I plan to take some time to reassess my situation before I make any major decisions - including another Council run."
Schmidt placed third in the race for two Council seats, with Bird taking 29 percent and Swanson garnering 17 percent of the vote. Schmidt fell about 780 votes short of Swanson and edged out fourth-place candidate Bob Stine by only 166 votes, according to the San Bernardino County Elections Office.
Councilman Mike Leonard, who did not run for re-election last month, will join Schmidt as the duo will step down next week.
"I'm losing two great colleagues who really contributed to the Council," Mayor Bill Holland said. "Eric was very analytic and intelligent, and he questioned everything that was on the agenda."
Holland said Schmidt's ability to see the big picture and also the minutiae of any agendized item will be sorely missed.
Reflecting on his time with the Council, Schmidt said he was honored to cut the ribbon on the $60 million Ranchero Road Interchange project at Interstate 15 last year.
Schmidt said he was proud of the hard work done by several agencies to restore traffic and resurrect the interchange bridge after a spark from a welder's torch ignited a fire that destroyed the falsework and required the contractor to start over.
"I was also at the ribbon cutting of the Ranchero Road undercrossing and I was an adviser in the Hesperia 2034 project that is setting the vision for the city for the next 20 years," Schmidt said. "My Hesperia 2.0 concept was actually the Genesis of Hesperia 2034."
Schmidt credits city staff for navigating the waters of "financial difficulties" as they worked to maintain the city's reserves. He also praised City Manager Nils Bensten for his leadership during the retirement of several senior staff and the challenges of several difficult projects such as Tapestry.
"The transition of former City Manager Mike Podegracz leaving and Nils Bentsen coming on board during this hard time was better than I expected," Schmidt said. "I admit, I was the lone dissenter on the vote to bring Nils here. But I gave him the benefit of the doubt and have supported his decisions."
Schmidt said one of his biggest challenges on the Council was getting "elected officials to have vision for the future of Hesperia" instead of "merely conducting business."
"One of the things that differentiates managers from leaders is vision," Schmidt said. "You need a vision to know where you're city is going in the short and long term. You need to get out of the mindset of just managing the city."
According to Schmidt, he's thankful he's not been in "center of the storm of controversy like some elected officials."
Schmidt said he's grateful for the support of his wife, Cindie, and his family for allowing him time to be on the Council and participating in several organizations and committees, including the Victor Valley College Foundation, Mojave Desert Air Quality Management District, California League of Cities, Victor Valley Economic Development Authority and High Desert Opportunity.
"The Lord has plans for us and I just need to wait for his direction," Schmidt said. "I will patiently wait for the next thing that I will be entrusted with on his behalf."
Schmidt and Leonard's final Council meeting will be 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Hesperia City Hall, located at 9700 Seventh Ave.
Rene Ray De La Cruz may be reached at 760-951-6227, RDeLa Cruz@VVDailyPress.com or on Twitter @DP_ReneDeLaCruz.