THOUSAND OAKS — In a tension-packed vote that saw all pretensions of council unity quickly disintegrate, a fiercely divided City Council on Tuesday appointed Councilman Mike Markey as the city's mayor for 1998.
Council members voted 3 to 2 to appoint Markey, who as mayor pro tem was next in line for the job, instead of Councilwoman Elois Zeanah.
Zeanah was passed over for mayor pro tem last year despite being the apparent successor according to council tradition and seniority, and dozens of her supporters showed up at the Civic Arts Plaza on Tuesday wearing large black "Z! Mayor" stickers to support her for the ceremonial post.
"Whew, that was tense," Markey said upon seating himself at the center of the dais, as angry Zeanah backers grumbled in the audience. "We need to move on."
Zeanah and Councilwoman Linda Parks voted against Markey. Parks argued that if Zeanah was not named mayor, talk of putting aside differences in the wake of the unsuccessful November recall attempt against Zeanah was very cheap indeed.
"The council now has an opportunity if they genuinely want to put their best foot forward," said Parks, who was unanimously chosen mayor pro tem. "For one symbolic move on your part, goodwill and sportsmanship will shine through."
But Councilwoman Judy Lazar, Councilman Andy Fox and Markey himself voted to appoint Markey instead. Afterward, Markey said the council must leave its old battles behind and begin anew the business of governing Thousand Oaks.
"We should all agree that even when we disagree, we should do so with courtesy and respect," Markey said.
But Zeanah, at least, did not see the promise of improved relations in Tuesday's vote.
"The community has just witnessed how the council handled its first opportunity for community healing and team building," Zeanah said just after the vote. "What we witnessed was not a community-healing or team-building action, but a political hijacking."
Afterward, Zeanah supporters were already talking about working to oust Fox and Lazar next November, when both face reelection along with Zeanah.
"Not to worry," said Toula Colovos, one of several Zeanah backers who staged an unsuccessful attempt to recall Fox and Lazar earlier this year.
"We shall see you in a few months at the polls. We know our strength and we know how to use it," she told the council.
Tuesday's meeting began on a much different note as scores of community organizations and fellow government leaders lined up to praise Lazar's tenure as mayor, showering her with plaques, flowers and even a statuette of an eagle, offered by the Conejo Valley Chamber of Commerce to honor her courage.
Many of the people represented obscure government committees on such issues as refuse and jurisdictional boundaries, or social service organizations working on such issues as affordable housing and homelessness. They praised Lazar for dedicating countless hours to their causes--even though they were not politically popular or particularly glamorous.
"After hearing of all the organizations that Judy has given time to, I'm even more honored that she gave time to the YMCA," said YMCA representative Bill Smith.
A visibly touched Lazar then gave her outgoing remarks, praising city staffers and especially City Manager Grant Brimhall for much of what she had been credited for.
"I didn't think I would do this," Lazar said, shedding some tears. "This city is very dear to me."
Then the much-anticipated showdown for her successor began.
Parks nominated Zeanah for mayor, arguing that the council ruffled a lot of feathers in the community a year ago when it snubbed Zeanah for mayor pro tem in favor of Markey, and that the hatchet could not be buried without rectifying the situation by appointing her mayor.
After being named mayor last year, Lazar publicly blasted Zeanah, calling her unfit to serve as mayor or mayor pro tem because she refused to work with her peers and never stepped foot in City Hall to learn from city bureaucrats about what was going on.
Fox then countered by nominating Markey and, without any more discussion, the vote was held.
Afterward, Fox said Markey is best suited for the honorary position and noted that Markey had endured some political snubs himself.
Markey was first runner-up in the 1994 council race. After Frank Schillo won a seat on the county Board of Supervisors, the council majority sought to appoint Markey to succeed Schillo. But Zeanah and former Councilwoman Jaime Zukowski refused, and after a special election that cost city taxpayers $100,000, Markey won the right to serve anyway.
"You attained the honor of mayor tonight," Fox said, "and it is an honor well deserved."