Photo by Maren Machles.
Sentimentality overwhelmed Tuesday’s council meeting as Mayor Bob Foster and four other councilmembers—Gary DeLong, James Johnson, Steve Neal, and Gerrie Schipske—said their farewells at their last city council meeting before the new council and Mayor-Elect Robert Garcia are sworn in next Tuesday.
“What I have found with working with this council is that a set back or a difficulty doesn’t make us worse off than we were before, in fact it makes us stronger,” City Clerk Larry Herrera said, thanking the officials for their time on council. “I look forward to the next four years with the new council and we will do our best to follow in your footsteps.”
Mayor Bob Foster received both appreciation and acknowledgment for his two terms spent as Mayor of Long Beach, being called “the right man at the right time” several times throughout the night. The praise marks his last City Council session before Garcia—who is leaving his council seat representing the 1st District and noted that Long Beach “couldn’t have had a better mayor [than Bob Foster]”—takes his place.
“Bob, a lot of things you’ve done are invisible, but they are no less remarkable. You’ve done a lot of good things for this city that you can’t really touch, they are more conceptual,” O’Donnell, outgoing 4th District councilmember, said. “You are probably the best crisis manager I have ever met.”
All members of council spoke up about the council’s achievements over the last four years and the work the officials put in to help Long Beach out of the Recession, as Chief of Police Jim McDonnell and many other speakers pointed out.
DeLong, 3rd District councilmember was distinctly recognized for his part in the Budget Oversight Committee to help the City of Long Beach work out of its economic situation. In addition, he was saluted for his work on the Colorado Lagoon and support for the Alamitos Bay rebuild by George Chapjian, director of Parks, Recreation & Marine.
Schipske, representing the 5th District, was applauded for her Rosie the Riveter Campaign, as well as her devotion to the Good Neighbor Park, El Dorado Park, and Lakes, Ponds and Wetlands task force.
“You have demonstrated amazing courage, willing to go against the grain, against the tide to fight for what you believe in,” 8th District Councilmember Al Austin said.
Praised for his work on the Willow Springs Park, 7th District Councilmember James Johnson, following his losing bid for the City Attorney seat, also said his goodbyes to council while many of his co-workers urged him to continue advocating and helping Willow Springs.
Steven Neal, the outgoing 9th District Councilmember, was honored, like many others, through a video his staff put together. He was commended for the picnic pavilion, new community center, and medians he added to his district.
“A politician and a godly man, that just doesn’t work,” 6th District Councilmember Dee Andrews chuckled. “But you made it work big man.”
Austin regarded Neal with high esteem and spoke about their relationship as co-workers.
“You can walk away from this office with your head held high and know that you have a friend at city council,” Austin said. “And I am going to be leaning on you for your advice and support for years to come. I know the best is still yet to come for Steve Neal.”
The meeting ended not with a note of a bitter end, but hope for an even brighter beginning this council has set up for the future one.
“I will miss all of you, and stay in touch. You know where I am,” O’Donnell, who will be facing John Goya for the 70th Assembly seat in the upcoming November election, said.