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    Marge Atkinson and Joanne Wile elected to Albany’s mayorship

    Marge Atkinson was elected to be Mayor of Albany Monday. Photo by Linda (Linjun) Fan.

    Marge Atkinson and Joanne Wile were elected as mayor and vice-mayor of Albany by a 3:2 vote Monday, at a dramatic City Council meeting where the split of the community caused by the waterfront controversy was still evident.

    Councilmember Peggy Thomsen and Farid Javandel voted no to the nomination. Thomsen said she believed that Javandel should be the vice mayor. Javandel served as Albany’s vice mayor in 2006, and was expected to rotate to the mayorship in 2007, according to what many believe to be an unwritten tradition of the community.

    “That didn’t happen two years ago. So I believe that we need to get back to an orderly transition, ” Thomsen said.

    Councilmember Robert Lieber served two terms of mayorship in the past two years, with the support of Atkinson and Wile, who took similar positions on the waterfront issues with him.

    Javandel said he should be the mayor.

    “Robert and I are the currently longest-serving members. He is coming off from his term as mayor, theoretically that would make me next, ” he said.

    He also said that his nomination would help to bring people together, since he represents the voice from the other side of community, different from the three majority on the council .

    “If we really want to heal the perceived divisions in Albany, maybe we need to move away from the sense of absolute block, and start to divide up the way we share out the positions on the council, ” he said.

    A roomful of residents were present at the meeting. Two dozens of them spoke passionately about their preferences. Except for Lieber, all the other four members were recommended to be mayor by someone from the public. Waterfront issues were again brought up, and attacks against old opponents were made.

    As soon as the hour-long public comment period ended, newly-elected Councilmember Peggy Thomsen made a motion to elect Atkinson as mayor and Javandel as vice mayor.

    Lieber said the election of the two positions should be separated.

    “Normally we do it once at a time. I have never been to council meetings without it happening that way,” Lieber said.

    “Isn’t that a procedure we used to rotate?” Javandel said. He seconded Thomsen’s motion.

    City Attorney Robert Zweben was consulted. He said that there was not a clear procedure to follow, and either way would be fine.

    “Mr. Mayor, there is a motion on the floor and there is a second on the floor, ” Thomsen said, urging Lieber to call a vote.

    Lieber paused for a few seconds, asked for an alternative motion, and then made one himself.

    “I have not planned to participate in this at all. But being thrown this curved ball, without the ability for you to do it the normal way, ” he turned to speak to Thomsen who sat on his left side. “I will move for Marge Atkinson for mayor and Joanne Wile for vice mayor. Do I have a second?”

    “I’ll second it, ” Atkinson said shortly afterwards.

    Thomsen protested, saying that her motion should be voted on first.

    City Attorney was consulted again. He suggested the Council to pull a vote on the two motions at the same time. Lieber decided not to follow the idea.

    “I think we’ll get through this just fine, ” he said. He turned to Thomsen, and threw open his arms to her. “If you’d like to speak, please do.”

    Thomsen then talked about the reason why she made the nomination. Javandel said he supported Thomsen’s idea.

    Then Councilmember Wile made her position known.

    “My thought is that we need the two people, whom I am hoping, will have the most energy to meet with businesses, to attend all kinds of regional meetings, to develop new approaches for the economy of Albany, and we really need to have a sense of dedication to come out of this economic recession with our heads above water, and I am hoping that would be Marge (Atkinson) as the mayor and myself as vice mayor, ” Wile said.

    Atkinson agreed. She said Wile is a person that she would work with well.

    “We all can still have representation on the council even if not being elected to be mayor or vice mayor, ” she said.

    After every member’s position was known, Lieber said that the procedure was to start with the later motion made and proceed to the earlier one. So he called for a vote on the motion he made.

    Three members voted yes and two voted no, a result similar to that of many votings related to the waterfront issues in recent years.

    Lieber stood up and gave up his chair to Atkinson. Some in the audience clapped in joy. Some rose up and left the room in disappointment.

    “I do look forward to working with everybody on the Council, ” said Atkinson as she settled into the center seat. “…I hope we can move forward in a good way. I don’t think we necessarily can’t. I think Everybody can really try hard to come together. I don’t see it’s impossible. “

    Click here to watch the video of the council meeting. A feature story on Joanne Wile is coming up.

    Joanne Wile, newly-elected vice mayor of Albany.

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