WHITTIER — Thomas K. Sawyer, a certified public accountant who has lived in the city for 23 years, was appointed to the City Council on Tuesday night to fill an unexpired term that runs through April, 1988.
Sawyer, 62, replaces Lee Strong, who resigned Jan. 24 to take a post on the county Regional Planning Commission. The council voted 4 to 0 to appoint Sawyer, who was one of five people that Mayor Myron Claxton had reported earlier were being considered for the post.
Following his selection, Sawyer told a reporter he was "honored and grateful" for the chance to serve a "community with such potential and such a rich history."
Approached About Vacancy
Sawyer is a political newcomer who has never held public office, and he admitted it would take time to become familiar with the issues confronting the council.
He said he was first approached about the vacancy by Councilman Eugene Chandler.
"I had no intention of serving on the council, but when Gene asked if I'd be interested, I felt an obligation," said Sawyer, who is retiring at the end of March as a partner in the Los Angeles-based accounting firm of KMG Main Hurdman.
Because of his retirement, Sawyer said he will have the time necessary to devote to city affairs. "Otherwise, I am not sure I would have agreed to serve," he said.
A week ago, the council announced that it would appoint a replacement rather than leave Strong's seat vacant until a special election. It was too late to add the vacancy to the April 8 city election, so the first chance to take the issue to the voters would have been in June during state primary balloting. Council members said that they felt four months was too long to wait.
Besides Sawyer, the others known to be under consideration for the council seat were: Sylvia Foltz, president of the Whittier Historical Society; Thomas Theisen, an accountant and member of the city's Social Services Commission; Ginny Trorey, a member of the city Planning Commission, and David Todd, vice president and secretary of Quaker City Federal Savings & Loan Assn. in Whittier.
Choosing among the five was difficult, said Claxton. In the end, however, it was Sawyer's "honesty and integrity" that helped win over the council, Claxton said.
Not an Easy Choice
Despite the unanimous vote for Sawyer, Councilmen Victor Lopez gave a hint that the choice did not come easily. Reflecting on the process, he looked at the other council members and said with a smile, "What's amazing after all of this, is we are still friends."
Sawyer steps into an important seat on the council. Strong was considered one of the city's most knowledgeable people on redevelopment. Strong runs a consulting business that specializes in municipal redevelopment and downtown management, and some have speculated that his departure may leave a leadership void on the council, particularly when it comes to new building projects. Redevelopment in Whittier, which began in the mid-1970s, is in high gear along Whittier Boulevard and in the Uptown Village area.
"I won't try to fill anyone's shoes," said Sawyer, who was sworn in at the end of Tuesday night's regular council meeting. "I have no particular causes . . . just a willingness to learn and serve."
Sawyer is married with three grown children. He had an accounting practice in Uptown Village from 1955 to 1976 then merged with KMG Main Hurdman and moved his office to Los Angeles.