POMONA — By hefty margins, voters elected the first woman mayor in the city's 99-year history Tuesday, and selected another woman to fill the vacated District 1 council seat.
In citywide races that many civic leaders had described as too close to call, Councilwoman Donna Smith decisively defeated former Councilman C.L. (Clay) Bryant for the city's highest post, and community activist Nell Soto bested businessman Michael R. Lowe for the council seat.
"We finally broke up the 'old boys syndrome' that has kept this town divided," said Soto, who had run for the seat unsuccessfully four years ago. "I think Pomona has come of age."
It was the bitter race between Smith and Bryant, however, that had led many observers to characterize the election as a potential crossroads for this politically divided and financially pinched city.
Aligned With Administration
Smith, who has generally sought to align herself with the record of the current city administration, garnered 4,457 votes, or 60.5% of the total. Bryant, a vehement critic of virtually every council decision and policy, had 2,913 votes, or 39.5%. They had earned places on Tuesday's runoff ballot by ousting incumbent G. Stanton Selby in a three-way primary race last month.
"I feel that the people want leaders who are going to be a little bit more sensitive to them," the 32-year-old Smith said. "And a woman thinks with both her heart and her head. This is a new beginning for Pomona."
Although Smith has been the primary dissenter on the council since she was first elected two years ago, she has come to favor the city's key development plans, including the proposed Inland Pacific World Trade Center. She had targeted crime and community involvement as her main campaign issues.
"I will serve as mayor of Pomona with a firm, positive hand, working to solve our problems with the help of our citizens," she said. "The faith that the people displayed today in me will not be forgotten."
Bryant, who had pledged to move from Pomona if he was not elected, said Wednesday that he would keep his promise.
"There could be nothing worse for this city than Donna Smith," the 67-year-old Bryant said. "I don't want to be around to be a part of it. I just feel sorry for all the people who can't afford to leave."
Special Election Needed
To fill Smith's council seat, which still has two years remaining, the council will have to call a special election that will probably be consolidated with the Nov. 3 school board election, City Clerk Joyce Herr said. In the meantime, the council has the option of appointing a replacement to fill the vacancy, she said.
In the District 1 race, Soto, a community relations representative for Southern California Rapid Transit District, received 4,125 votes, or 56.6% of the total. Lowe, a self-employed marketing consultant, had 3,158 votes, or 43.4%.
Soto, 60, who has cast a skeptical eye toward several council decisions, emphasized her grass-roots appeal and willingness to consult the public on community issues.
"We have to involve the entire city if we're going to start solving our problems," she said. "The business community needs representation. But what about the people? The City Council has to have a heart."