Palo Alto on Monday night welcomed new and returning council members, said a tearful goodbye to those who are departing and appointed a fresh set of leaders to plot a course for the year ahead.
The nine-member city council was unanimous in choosing to promote Greg Scharff from vice mayor to mayor.
Council Member Larry Klein noted that Scharff's selection would break a recent trend of mayors who were either homegrown or the first of their ethnic group to hold the top position.
"He is probably one of the 50 or 60 middle-aged white guys we've had," said Klein, who nominated Scharff.
"But he does represent an interesting demographic, one that speaks to many of us here in Palo Alto, those of us who were not born here but came here because we recognize this is a great place to live and work."
Klein also pointed to Scharff's success in leading city council meetings over the past year when outgoing Mayor Yiaway Yeh was forced to recuse himself because of a conflict of interest.
"We've seen he can do the job," said Klein, a former mayor himself.
Scharff, 49, said he wanted 2013 to be "the year we get things done." As goals, he listed completing the Mitchell Park Library rebuild, implementing the city's bicycle and pedestrian master plan, and reinvigorating California Avenue through a major streetscape project.
"At the end of 2013, I want all of us to be able to look back and say, 'Wow, we accomplished a lot,'" Scharff said.
Scharff also expressed an interest in continuing to work with the city's various labor groups to rein in pension and benefit costs as well as reach decisions on issues including the future of Cubberley Community Center and a potential waste-to-energy facility in the Baylands.
"We need to do all of this and more utilizing the best of the Palo Alto process, which to me is transparency, openness and inclusive process coupled with a strong community engagement and input," he said.
In many ways, Scharff's promotion was a foregone conclusion. However, the question of who should be vice mayor was less straightforward.
Council members Nancy Shepherd and Karen Holman both earned nominations from their peers.
Shepherd ultimately won the post in a 6-3 decision. In addition to casting a vote in her own favor, Shepherd received the backing of council members Marc Berman, Liz Kniss, Gail Price, Klein and Scharff.
"I do believe that I am qualified to be vice mayor during this term. I think I've been an effective council member by bringing forward not just the youth cooperative that we've been working on as a priority this past year, but also many aspects of high-speed rail that were causing angst in our community when I was getting elected three years ago," she said.
Before Scharff and Shepherd took their new roles, City Clerk Donna Grider administered the oath of office to re-elected council members Pat Burt and Greg Schmid, as well as new arrivals Kniss and Berman.
Tears were shed when it came time to bid farewell to former mayors Sid Espinosa and Yeh. Both one-term council members were presented with proclamations and a key to the city for their service.
"I think that you're seeing two exemplary mayors who are leaving the council," Kniss said. "Frankly, I was surprised when you both decided in July that you were leaving. I truly was caught off guard and I think you really do leave a big gap for the rest of us to fill."