Alameda Mayor Trish Spencer takes the oath
of office Tuesday night. PHOTO/Steven Tavares

ALAMEDA CITY COUNCIL | Alameda’s new Mayor Trish Spencer still can’t believe her good fortune and the outgoing mayor skipped out of the council chambers before the new mayor was sworn-in to replace her. The Alameda City Council also added two new members, Frank Matarrese and Jim Oddie, at a ceremony Tuesday evening.

Spencer, who upset the incumbent, Marie Gilmore, by a scant 120 votes, said her election last month is “another part of my life I didn’t see coming.” Spencer, who was an Alameda school board member, only pulled papers to run for the seat four days before the early August filing deadline. She rode a path to victory over frustration among Alamedans concerned about over-development on the Island and historically low voter turnout.

“We will do our best to meet our needs,” Spencer said of the new council, but before later adding, “We will do good work.” In fact, Spencer took the oath of office twice Tuesday night to allow an overflow crowd of supporters to witness the event. Each time she took the oath with young children. Afterward, Spencer said the inclusion of children during the oath symbolizes the city’s work is ultimately about the future.

Tuesday’s meeting also ended Gilmore’s four years in office. In her remarks, Gilmore acknowledged Alameda is changing, but urged for continuing the planned development of Alameda Point proposed under her leadership. “Change is never, ever easy,” said Gilmore, “Even when it’s good change.”

However, during a brief recess between the regularly scheduled council meeting and the swearing-in ceremony, Gilmore and her husband, ESPN college football analyst, Rod Gilmore, exited the proceedings and again highlighted the frostiness during and following the November election from Gilmore toward Spencer.

Tuesday also marked the return of Matarrese to the City Council. Matarrese served two terms before unsuccessfully running for mayor in 2010. “Life doesn’t give you many second chances,” he said. “and I will not waste this one.” Oddie, who won the second open seat on the council last month, signaled a desire to seek common ground with his colleagues on a council potentially divided, at least, on the issue of development.

With two new members taking the oath, two others ended their terms. Lena Tam wrapped up two terms on the City Council, along with Stewart Chen, who failed to win re-election after serving the final two years of former Councilmember Rob Bonta’s term. “It was a good run,” said Chen who finished third last month in a race with two open seats. Chen thanked supporters and notably, his critics.

“The process made me a better person,” said Chen, whose campaign was likely undermined by a report earlier this year highlighting a never-disclosed charge of insurance fraud two decades ago. “We make mistakes,” he said, “but I’m a better person than before or even 20 years ago.”

The Alameda City Council will get back to work in January. In addition, as the highest vote-getter in the November election, the council unanimously selected Matarrese as vice mayor.