Major shake-up to City Council after election
Last updated 12/21/2020 at 5:48am | View PDF
Two newcomers will join the City Council in January after the November election.
Pete Espinoza and Kris Lawrence joined current council member Chad Givens as the three top candidates in the election.
Espinoza led all candidates with over 20% of the vote. Givens was second with 18.6%, and Lawrence grabbed the third open seat with a little over 18% of the vote. On election night, Lawrence held a slim lead over current Mayor Gilbert Alvarado, with 42 votes separating the two candidates. Lawrence's lead expanded in the following two days, growing to 18% of the vote, compared to Alvarado's 16.8%.
The three winners will join members Cathy Prout and Cesar Lopez, who have terms that do not expire until December 2022.
A new mayor will be chosen when the new council takes its places in January 2021.
It has been a tumultuous two years since Alvarado became mayor and Lopez became Mayor Pro-Tem, including a shake-up in the administration, with the departure of City Manager Scott Hurlbert amid a cloud of questions about the reason of his departure.
Several meetings were held by the council that included no-confidence votes and remarks by the residents on how the city was being represented.
Stumbling blocks included a much-publicized move by the council to place their names on a plaque commemorating Shafter's veterans that was dedicated at the new Veterans Park. With a large number of residents feeling outraged by the move, the decision was made by the council to reverse its decision, keeping their names off of the plaque. This was just one of many issues that the council had, in addition to a growing division of the council as a whole, with members being questioned on their motives and intentions regarding their vision for the city.
In recent months, the council had worked to mend this division.
The residents of Shafter chose to transfuse the council with some new blood during the election, making a statement that the goal and function of a City Council is to work for the people and put their welfare and concerns above all else.
In the last two weeks of the election, there was a flood of social media posts that included several videos posted by citizens connected with PAC (Peoples Advocate for Change) that endorsed the three candidates that were elected.
Included in the videos was an endorsement by former council member Eli Espericueta, in which Espericueta commented that some members of the current council had not shown a desire to put the needs of the city first, trying to push their personal agendas in front of the city's.
"Included in these acts was the decision by the council to put their name on something that should never have even been considered. That memorial is for the veterans of our city and does not have anything to do with the City Council. This is just one of many examples of this council not putting the city's needs in front of their own," said Espericueta.
Another video was made by local farmer Larry Starrh. Starrh had a similar sentiment that Espericueta had, noting that the council's job is to work for the people of Shafter.
"This council race is about power, how you can use, and how you can abuse it," he said.
He also mentioned that power is like a hammer, you can build things with it, or you can take it and smash things with it. Starrh said that he was voting for the builders in the race.