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Wade Harper addresses the audience after he is sworn in as Antioch's new mayor in Antioch, Calif., on Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2012. He is first black mayor in Antioch, which was founded in 1849. As Antioch has grown to a city of near 104,000, its black population has increased from about 2 percent to more than 17 percent over the past two decades.

ANTIOCH -- After an appointment process that took a little more than an hour, the City Council whittled down a field of nine applicants to one new council member.

Tony Tiscareno, a retired steelworker at USS-POSCO and political adviser, was sworn in Tuesday as the council's fifth member, filling the seat vacated by Wade Harper, who was elected mayor in November.

"I want to work to provide a much safer and productive Antioch," Tiscareno, 55, said shortly after taking his seat on the dais.

Tiscareno was born and raised in Contra Costa County, moving to Antioch at age 13 from Pittsburg. The father of two and grandfather of four graduated from Antioch High School in 1975 and has been married to his wife, Olivia, for 33 years.

Although he has been mostly a behind-the-scenes guy in the political spectrum, many have been prodding him to run for a long time, Tiscareno said.

"I was seriously looking at running in two years, but when (the vacancy) came up, the timing seemed right," he said.

Tiscareno was one of nine who went through the interview process Tuesday. Each applicant gave a three-minute statement on why they were seeking the position. Afterward, each council member chose two names to go to the next round, submitting slips of paper read aloud by City Attorney Lynn Tracy Nerland.

The City Council eliminated a few well-known names in a first round of votes, including Chamber of Commerce CEO Sean Wright and Manny Soliz, a councilman from 1995 to 2000.

After the field was narrowed to four candidates -- Jim Davis, former mayor and third-place vote-getter in the November election; Donald Freitas, mayor from 2000 to 2008; Vincent Manuel, a district representative for Supervisor Federal Glover; and Tiscareno -- the council voted on narrowing the field to two.

Freitas and Tiscareno moved on.

Councilwoman Mary Rocha moved that Tiscareno be appointed, and Mayor Wade Harper seconded the motion. Before the vote, Councilman Gary Agopian asked that the council reconsider and discuss the merits of Freitas, particularly his experience.

There was no further discussion after Agopian's comments, and Tiscareno's appointment was approved 3-1. Agopian later asked for a revote to give Tiscareno's appointment unanimous approval.

While at USS-POSCO, Tiscareno served as president of United Steelworkers Local 1440. Upon retiring after 33 years in the trade, he worked as a jobs advocate for the Contra Costa Labor Council and owned a sports card shop in Antioch. Tiscareno has also coached youth sports in Antioch.

"There may be that worry that I'm a new face, but I've been in Antioch a long time. A lot of people know who I am," he said.

This year, Tiscareno worked as campaign manager for newly elected Assemblyman Jim Frazier through the primary election, then shifted his attention to working on state propositions.

Leaving Tuesday's meeting with two large binders' worth of material to study, Tiscareno is looking to hit the ground running. He said his goals include working with fellow council members as a cohesive group, hiring more police officers and improving crime prevention programs to reverse the city's spike in crime.

Tiscareno also wants to create more activity programs to "keep youth involved and off the streets."

Contact Paul Burgarino at 925-779-7164. Follow him at Twitter.com/paulburgarino.