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Brinkman mayor in 4-3 vote

Jennifer Smith

City council last night narrowly elected Debbie Brinkman as its new council president, and Bruce Stahlman to be president pro tem.

The vote was taken after Judge James Anderson swore in new councilors Bruce Beckman and Jerry Valdes, as well as returning incumbents Brinkman and Peggy Cole. With outgoing Councilman Jose Trujillo presiding, Stahlman nominated Brinkman to be president (or mayor, as we commonly refer to the position, though city charter uses the term "president"). Councilman Jim Taylor countered by nominating Councilman Phil Cernanec. The vote was 4-3 for Brinkman, with Taylor, Cernanec and Beckman voting against.

Brinkman said she was comfortable and passionate about taking on the role of mayor, and noted that all seven councilors share the responsibilities of the council as a whole (In Littleton, the position officially carries no more weight than the others).

"I don't feel the position of mayor is a full-time job, and I don't think it should be," she said.

Cernanec then got a shot at being president pro tem, and Brinkman threw Stahlman's name in the hat. That vote was 5-2 in favor of Stahlman, with Beckman and Taylor dissenting. Note that Cernanec did not vote for himself, nor did Stahlman, who nominated him.

Stahlman said he was looking forward to sharing the load with Brinkman, and said he would "help her grow in her duties and responsibilities, as well."

Before the voting started, City Manager Michael Penny noted that there is no formal process specified in council regulations for choosing the president and president pro tem. Cole said she'd tried to get some changes made in 2008 that would have addressed that, but council flatly rejected them.

"I look forward to this council saying we need to clear this up," she said.

Neither do council policies address whether the vote should be by secret or public ballot. Cole made a motion to keep the process public, but Taylor fought it, calling it a violation of legislative rules. He wanted to keep it secret, he said, so, "There's not going to be any bad feelings."

Acting City Attorney Kirsten Crawford said they could do it either way.

"It's not clear in the charter, so I don't think it directly violates the charter," she said.

All other members of council voted with Cole.

"I'm going to be casting my vote for someone and not against someone," she said. "... I do not want to give the sense of any opposition, at least for me, in the vote." She said with so much experience on this new council, she had no reason to oppose any nomination.

Over the next few weeks, councilors will attend "Council University," as Penny coined it. They'll talk about how they will work together and how they will conduct business, and they'll set goals for the next two years. Penny said they'll also be briefed on processes they don't have authority over - things like ex parte communications (talking publicly about topics they have to rule on) and executive sessions, which are governed by state or federal law.

"This body ... will be together for the next two years for better or for worse, in sickness and in health," said Penny.

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Mayor Debbie Brinkman
Points to Ponder

How do you feel about the choices council made last night?

Any advice or wishes for the new mayor?
Mayor Pro Tem Bruce Stahlman