Jan. 31, 2012 | After eight years in exile, Gus Morrison is back in the mayor’s office in Fremont. The City Council, short one member after Mayor Bob Wasserman’s death last December, unanimously approved the appointment of Morrison as interim mayor Monday evening.
Morrison was, by a distance, the most qualified candidate among the six remaining applicants for the job. The 25-year Fremont council veteran spent 14 years as the city’s mayor ending in 2004. He will serve out Wasserman’s final term through this November’s election and has publicly stated no interest in running for the job.
This fact was certainly the prevailing job description among the initial pool of 12 applicants. Current councilmembers Anu Natarajan, Bill Harrison and Dominic Dutra are all likely mayoral candidates and the addition of an appointee running with the added edge of incumbent was major sticking point in their deliberations.
After a round of six interviews Monday night, the council ranked candidates and tallied up the votes. Morrison received the highest total followed by Dirk Lorenz and David Bonaccorsi, both planning commissioners. Dan Wilkowsky, Beth Hoffman were next and former city manager Don Driggs placed sixth.
Morrison’s previous stint as Fremont mayor featured a large-than-life character whose confidence was sometimes misconstrued for cockiness. In both his application and Monday’s interviews, he cast himself as the most qualified person in the room.
“I know how to do the job,” said Morrison Monday night. “I banged the gavel twice as mayor and once got in between to break up a fight.”
Morrison also offered job development as one of Fremont’s greatest challenges this year. On projects surrounding the future Warm Springs BART station, he disagrees with developers who believe high density housing surrounding the station is the answer.
To the rest of the East Bay, Morrison may be best known as the man who set a road block for the potential move of the Oakland Athletics to Fremont. Despite Wasserman’s desire to bring the team to the South County, it was Morrison’s rhetoric and past contacts that created holes in the development’s efficacy across the freeway from Nummi and near Pacific Commons.
Morrison’s knack for bold, at times, radical ideas came in 2010 when he proposed ended Fremont as we know it. His plan to merge Fremont with Newark and Union City as a cost-saving measure was branded by some as Draconian and unworkable and creative and out-of-box politics to others.
The City Council will swear-in Morrison during the Feb. 14 meeting.