By Jacob Wilson/Garden Grove Journal
In the end, they really just switched seats.
New Westminster Mayor Tri Ta was sworn in Wednesday in front of his family and an overflow crowd to become the first elected Vietnamese-American mayor in the United States.
Then, in one of his first acts as the city’s top official, Ta nominated outgoing mayor Margie Rice to fill his vacated council seat.
“The city needs the person who has the most experience,” Ta said. “We especially need a person who is well respected.”
Rice was mayor for 12 years and a city councilmember for six.
The council unanimously approved the choice. The vote was met by loud applause from most of the overflow crowd at Wednesday’s City Council meeting, but the decision had its detractors.
More than half a dozen speakers had earlier asked the council to appoint mayoral candidate Penny Loomer, who also addressed the council.
“I would like to respectfully submit my name to fulfill the council vacancy,” she said. “I am very interested in the well-being of our city.”
Loomer garnered 30 percent of the vote in finishing second to Ta and had previously run for city council. Loomer and her supporters walked out of the meeting after the vote.
Other speakers had asked the council to appoint “the next highest vote-getter” in the city council race, though no one mentioned any names. Incumbent councilmember Tyler Diep finished third in the race behind Sergio Contreras and Diana Carey.
Rice’s appointment means that Contreras and Carey essentially replaced Diep and Frank Fry, who died in November. Rice had endorsed Ta, Contreras and Carey.
Like Rice before him, Contreras was a Westminster School District School Board trustee before joining the council. Carey served on the Westminster Traffic Commission.
Councilmember Andy Quach, briefly the council’s senior member before Rice’s appointment, was voted mayor pro tem.