For those who routinely interact with the public the pandemic has rendered human touch obsolete, even dangerous. Local stay-at-home orders have hampered a brand of retail politics — hand-shaking, kibitzing, and even hugs and kisses — that has been long favored by the newly-elected Alameda Councilmember Trish Herrera Spencer.
Despite the restrictions, Spencer won an at-large seat on the Alameda City Council last month. The victory came two years after Alamedans voted her out of the mayor’s office after just one term.
In keeping with Spencer’s strong connection to a segment of the community, she acknowledged that her ability to connect in-person with constituents will have to wait until the pandemic subsides.
“You’re always welcome to call me. That’s the way we’re going to do it now,” Spencer said following her swearing-in ceremony on Tuesday night.
Spencer surprised some by proceeding to give out her personal cellphone number during the meeting.
The unusual move caught the attention of several officials on the Zoom conference call broadcast to the public. Alameda City Attorney Yibin Shen, Assistant City Manager Gerry Beaudin, and Alameda Councilmember Malia Vella, all appeared momentarily shocked by Spencer’s gesture. Each immediately stopped what they were doing and glanced at their monitors.
It’s another unconventional move of many by Spencer that has endeared her to a moderate and conservative voters at a moment when their historical political dominance has dwindled over the past decade.
To further her populist streak, Spencer noted Tuesday night that her campaign for the city council cost under $15,000, a paltry sum for the East Bay, and urged other Alamedans to run for elected office.
Spencer’s return to the dais has raised speculation about how she will interact with her colleagues. As mayor, Spencer often voted in the minority. She may do so over the next two years since progressives on the Alameda City Council hold a slim majority.
Spencer also developed a rivalry with then-Councilmember Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft. Ashcraft defeated Spencer in the 2018 mayoral race. But, both were cordial on Tuesday night.
However, Spencer’s remarks as a newly sworn-in councilmember dovetailed with her final remarks as mayor two years ago. At the time, Spencer slammed Ashcraft for running a negative mayoral campaign against her. On Tuesday night, Spencer echoed those comments when she thanked her council opponents this fall, including Vella, for running a “clean campaign.”