Councilwoman Margaret Connell was given an award of appreciation as she took her seat on the dais for the last time. She is retiring after more than a decade of service to the city.
Many people spoke to thank her for her work, from helping Goleta achieve cityhood to guiding the new city to a prosperous future.
Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider, UCSB Vice Chancellor Gene Lucas and MarBorg Industries President Mario Borgatello thanked her for creating such a good relationship between Goleta and the surrounding community.
Connell attended many university meetings and helped bridge the gap between City Hall and the campus, Lucas said, and awarded her with a plaque on behalf of Chancellor Henry Yang to thank her for her dedicated leadership and “collaborative spirit.”
Connell was selected as this year’s Woman of the Year by the Goleta Valley Chamber of Commerce as well.
“You set a great example for all the rest of us with your involvement and your caring,” said Cynthia Brock, former Goleta councilwoman and mayor. “It’s the end of an era. I hate to see it come to an end, but you deserve to do some other things; you’ve done so much for all of us and our community. Thank you, Margaret.”
Fellow members of the council wished her well in her retirement, and thanked her for all her work.
“Goleta’s in good hands because you’re leaving it in good hands,” Councilman Michael Bennett said. “It may at one time have needed more attention, but rest assured, it will be well looked after in your absence.”
“I’m going to miss having you sit next to me,” Councilwoman Paula Perotte said tearfully.
“This is the most independent woman I have ever met,” outgoing Mayor Ed Easton said. “I never had an idea that she couldn’t make better, and she did. And what gives me the greatest pleasure I guess out of this, after four years of being on council together, and running together — she trusts me, and that’s a wonderful thing and makes me feel good all the time.”
Getting so much praise was “sort of like being at your own funeral,” Connell joked, but sincerely thanked everyone for their kind words. She said she is glad to be able to spend more time with her family, including husband Joe and daughter Kate.
She thought back on her proudest accomplishments in her time with the city, and she said incorporation obviously tops the list. Since then, she said, the General Plan, Ellwood Preserve and Guggenheim v. Goleta decision have been her proudest moments, she said. The Guggenheim court decision upheld the city’s rent control ordinance on the Rancho Mobile Homes.
Lastly, Connell said she was grateful for the city’s fantastic staff, who were hired with the warning that a new city would be a lot of hard work.
“And yes, I’ll be watching you,” she said to her fellow council members. “But I promise, I promise not to be badgering you every meeting … well if you make me really mad, I might.”
Easton and Farr were then sworn in, and the new five-member council selected Councilman Roger Aceves to serve as mayor for the next year. Bennett will serve as mayor pro tempore.
Easton said he looks forward to being a councilman again, when he can focus more on his own opinions rather than facilitating meetings and finding consensus on the council.
Farr thanked city staff for getting him up to speed and his fellow council members for being welcoming.
“I am really looking forward to this,” he said. “The city is on terrific footing, it’s financially doing very well, and that’s due to the careful stewardship of every councilperson who sat up here. I will do my best to uphold that principle.”
He added that his philosophy will be “Goleta First”: “If it’s good for the 30,000 people who live here, I will support it; if not, I will take another position.”
Aceves, who has served on the council since 2006 and was mayor in 2009, said he promises to make sure the city gets the job done and the council has short meetings.
“We need to come up with a plan to come out of the recession and invest our monies so we sustain the services our city has come to expect in the last 10 years,” he said.
The next council meeting is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Dec. 18.