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Who Will Be San Diego’s Next City Council President?

Photo caption:

Photo credit: Milan Kovacevic

San Diego council members David Alvarez and Myrtle Cole, 2014.

The next City Council will be majority Democrat, which means the next president will likely either be Councilman David Alvarez or Councilwoman Myrtle Cole.

With the news on Friday that Ray Ellis was dropping out of the race for San Diego City Council, the question of whether the council will shift from majority Democrat to majority Republican is answered.

The remaining candidate, Barbara Bry, is a Democrat, so the council will remain as five Democrats and four Republicans.

But that leads to a new question: who will serve as the next council president? Current City Council President Sherri Lightner is termed out.

Previous Council Presidents

Scott Peters

Ben Hueso

Tony Young

Todd Gloria

Sherri Lightner

Since the president position was created in 2006, every person to hold the position was a sitting council member, not a newly-elected representative. In fact, prior to 2015, the outgoing council voted on president before the new members were inaugurated, so there was no chance a new member of the council could become president.

With the council remaining majority Democrat, it's likely the president will also be a Democrat. There are only two Democratic council members who will not be leaving office this year: David Alvarez and Myrtle Cole.

A spokeswoman for Alvarez said he left Friday morning on a family vacation and so was not available to comment on whether he'd want the job. He tweeted his congratulations to Bry before he left.

Cole's spokeswoman said the councilwoman was not available because the council is on legislative recess "and has no comments at this time."

Council presidents are elected every year by a majority vote of the council. Their responsibilities include (Download Acrobat Reader here) running council meetings, calling special meetings, setting council agendas, placing actions on the consent calendar and referring topics to committees, coordinating closed session agendas with the mayor and city attorney and selecting the committee chairs and committee vice chairs with approval by a council majority.

KPBS also polled the other council members and council candidates on whom they'd support for president. Here are the results:

District 1, Barbara Bry:

Bry said she hasn't "made any commitments" on whom she'll support. Asked whether she would serve as president, she said, "Let's take one step at a time, first I have to win. There are a lot of qualified people on the San Diego City Council."

District 2, Lorie Zapf:

Unavailable for comment.

District 3, Chris Ward:

Ward said because the president sets the legislative agenda, "the discussion around our determination of a council president is best facilitated in a public meeting." He said he would "support the person who has the aptitude and skills to most effectively serve all San Diegans and lead the business of the council. Fortunately, there will be a number of qualified individuals from which to choose."

District 4, Myrtle Cole:

"No comments at this time."

District 5, Mark Kersey:

Kersey said he does not plan on running for council president and will "only support a candidate who has the ability to work with others on the council in a constructive manner."

District 6, Chris Cate:

"I look forward to working with my new council colleagues, and whomever is council president, to build a better San Diego."

District 7, Scott Sherman:

Asked if he would be interested in serving as council president, Sherman said, “Yes, but that’s not going to happen.” He said he "hasn’t given much thought at this point" to who should serve.

District 8, David Alvarez:

Unavailable for comment.

District 9, candidate Ricardo Flores:

"I have one focus right now, and that is winning this race. I haven’t made those types of decisions yet."

District 9, candidate Georgette Gomez:

"I want a strong Democrat committed to bringing change to City Hall as our next council president. We need to stop the downtown special interests from controlling our city and put our neighborhoods and working people first."

Outgoing council members Marti Emerald, Todd Gloria and Sherri Lightner were also not available to comment on who they thought should next serve as president.

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Claire Trageser
Investigative Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksAs a member of the KPBS investigative team, my job is to hold the powerful in San Diego County accountable. I've done in-depth investigations on political campaigns, police officer misconduct and neighborhood quality of life issues.

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