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Bill Wells Sworn In As El Cajon Mayor

Bill Wells was sworn in Tuesday night as the new mayor of El Cajon.

Wells had been filling the mayoral duties on an interim basis. The current term runs through next year.

Former-Mayor Mark Lewis stepped down on Oct. 24 after a magazine published statements he made, which were considered offensive by the city's substantial Chaldean population.

Lewis, the mayor of El Cajon since 1998, cited health reasons in leaving office. He had a minor stroke in 2010 and has suffered from cancer and a dislocated shoulder.

The council decided against ordering a special election, which would have been costly and resulted in the winner serving only a few months before having to run for reelection.

However, the council members were criticized last year for quickly appointing Planning Commissioner Tony Ambrose to replace Jillian Hanson-Cox, who resigned and later pleaded guilty to two felony charges of embezzling $3.5 million from her employer.

The council could make decisions on filling Wells' council seat at its Dec. 10 meeting, said city spokeswoman Monica Zech. The city will accept applications that will be made available on its website next week.

Zech said Wells was reelected last year, so the term for the now-vacant position runs through 2016.

Lewis was quoted in The Progressive magazine in May as saying that some Chaldean schoolchildren who receive free lunches are "being picked up by Mercedes-Benzes." It also quoted the then-mayor as saying, "First time (the Chaldeans) come over here, it doesn't take them too long to learn where all the freebies are at."

He later said in a letter to the media that his infirmities have made it difficult to speak and use words correctly, but he stood behind his comments.

An estimated 50,000 Chaldeans — Iraqi Catholics — live in San Diego County and of those, 10,000 to 15,000 are El Cajon residents.

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