HESPERIA - The mood was bittersweet inside City Hall as new Council members were sworn in, former ones said their farewells and a new mayor was appointed.
Larry Bird and Rebekah Swanson, who pulled off election wins for two open Hesperia City Council seats last month, took the oath of office during Tuesday night's meeting, where Councilmen Eric Schmidt and Mike Leonard also shared parting words.
In a Council reorganization move, Mayor Pro Tem Paul Russ, who was first elected in 2014, was appointed mayor by a 3-2 vote, with former Mayor Bill Holland and Bird casting the dissenting votes. Councilman Russ Blewett, who was elected in 2010, was appointed mayor pro tem by a 5-0 vote.
Bird, who is also the principal of Sultana High School and took 29 percent, or the majority, of the vote on Nov. 8, was sworn in by his wife, Julie. Swanson, who garnered 17 percent of the vote, was sworn in by her husband, Eric.
Swanson, who served on the Hesperia Recreation and Park District board for the last 10 years, submitted her letter of resignation on Tuesday, saying it was a "great honor to serve" the park district.
The park district said it is actively looking for residents within the district to submit applications to fill the vacant seat on the board.
After Leonard was honored by the Council and several local and regional leaders last month, Tuesday night belonged to Schmidt. He was showered with accolades by nearly a dozen people, including 1st District Supervisor Robert Lovingood, former Hesperia City Manager Mike Podegracz and Hesperia Chamber of Commerce President/CEO Brad Letner, who also represented Assemblyman Jay Obernolte.
The other Council members shared their appreciation of Leonard and Schmidt before turning the floor over to Schmidt for the final time.
Schmidt stopped several times and held back tears as he delivered a written address that included his thankfulness to "the Lord," his wife, Cindie, and daughter, Summer, and the Council and city staff.
"I finally want to thank the citizens of Hesperia for giving me this opportunity to experience the joy and gratitude of a service which I hadn't had before," said Schmidt,who received a standing ovation.
During a brief intermission, a reception was held where new and former Council members exchanged hugs, handshakes and conservation with those who attended the meeting, including family, friends, Mayor Pro Tem Jermaine Wright and Councilman John Woodard from Adelanto and former Hesperia Councilman Thurston "Smitty" Smith.
Russ told the Daily Press he's predicts a "good, robust and productive" year for Hesperia, with several "large business and development projects coming down the pipeline."
"It's very sad to see Mike and Eric go - they were an important part to the success of this city," Russ said. "Leonard has been here so long that his fingerprints are on many projects throughout the city."
Russ said Leonard and Schmidt "worked for every taxpayer and put the interest of Hesperia residents first," adding that Schmidt was a "detailed Councilman that saw the big picture and made solid decisions."
Rene Ray De La Cruz may be reached at 760-951-6227, RDeLa Cruz@VVDailyPress.com or on Twitter @DP_ReneDeLaCruz.