Pinole's Mary Horton is calling it a career after almost two decades on the City Council.
"You might ask why, especially when I have a little over a year on my term," she said. "I just feel like the time is ripe for me to move on."
Horton, who first was elected in 1990, said a recent two-month hiatus from her job as an employment counselor for the Alameda County Vocational Program in Oakland while she recovered from shoulder surgery gave her a new perspective.
The council has 30 days to appoint someone to serve the remainder of Horton's term or call an election.
Horton became mayor late last year as part of the normal council rotation, but she stepped down in April, citing the demands of her job. Virginia Fujita, then mayor pro tem, became mayor two weeks later.
Horton's resignation from the council, which she announced near the end of Tuesday's meeting shortly before midnight, appeared to catch her fellow council members by surprise.
"I'm kind of shocked, Mary," Fujita said.
"We're all speechless," said Councilwoman Debbie Long, who was elected to the council along with Fujita and Roy Swearingen in 2008; Swearingen had been off the council for 18 years after completing his first term in 1990.
Pete Murray, who served on the council with Horton continuously since 1992, said, "You've walked to your own drummer. You have left a legacy here."
Horton's tenure on the council was sometimes collegial, sometimes not. She and former Councilwoman Maria Alegria became bitter opponents when Horton backed Laura Canciamilla in the 2006 Democratic primary campaign for state Assembly while Alegria backed Mark DeSaulnier, the eventual winner.
In the 2006 council race, Alegria backed newcomer Stephen Tilton over Horton, who barely held on to her seat, finishing third behind Tilton in a four-candidate race for three seats.
Horton supported the recall of Alegria and Tilton in 2008 over their friendship with a restaurateur who owed the city money, among other issues.
After Tuesday's meeting, Horton noted that she and her husband, Will, both lost a father last year and that other family members died recently.
"I was just ready to move on," she said. "I'm a young 52, and I have the rest of my life ahead of me."
She said she would pursue personal projects such as writing, noting she had been a journalism major and also is an artist. She said she might write children's books.
Horton said she is proud of the city's accomplishments during her tenure. She cited the Youth Center, the new City Hall, Pinole Grove Senior Housing, the Pinole Senior Village, Pinole Valley fire station, Pinole Vista Crossing and Pinole Valley shopping centers, a reduction in crime and the solution of the Amber Swartz kidnapping.
Her finest moment of all, she said, was seeing "the shine on the young people's faces when they spoke to save their school," a reference to the successful drive earlier this year to persuade the West Contra Costa school district to keep Shannon School open, at least through next school year.