Above: (Right) new Vice-mayor Jim Tovias congratulates (left) new Mayor Rick Cook. Councimember Cook and Councilmember Tovias were elected to the position by the Santa Paula City Council. Santa Paula City Council members left to right are: Martin Hernandez, Jim Tovias, Rick Cook, Ralph Fernandez and Bob Gonzales

Have served in positions before: Cook selected Mayor, Tovias Vice Mayor

December 06, 2013
Santa Paula City Council

By Peggy Kelly

Santa Paula Times 

When Rick Cook was selected Mayor at Monday’s City Council meeting it could have earned him the nickname The Comeback Kid: Cook, first elected to the council in 1998, served two terms including a stint as mayor before he lost his bid for a third term in 2006. He was reelected to the council in 2010.

Cook was unanimously selected mayor by other members of the council at the December 2 meeting where he noted the council will have to consider controversial issues in the future, including sewer processing and water rates.

The office of mayor is largely ceremonial and lasts one year.

City Clerk Judy Rice, who first declared the office of mayor vacated by Ralph Fernandez and then explained the selection process, oversaw the election for mayor.

Any member of the council can nominate a member of the panel and a second to the nomination is not required; if there is more than one nomination the candidates are voted on in the order they are named. The first nominee to receive a majority vote is selected mayor. 

Councilman Jim Tovias nominated Cook, who has served as vice mayor since December 2012, and Councilman Bob Gonzales seconded it. Tovias then moved that the nominations be closed and all the council voted in favor of Cook taking the gavel and the middle seat at the dais.

Cook offered thanks to the council before he opened nominations for vice mayor.

Gonzales nominated Tovias and Councilman Ralph Fernandez moved that nominations be closed. 

All the council agreed and Tovias was selected vice mayor. 

“That was short and sweet,” said Cook, but Tovias asked that a roll call vote be taken.

After all the council said yes to Tovias being selected vice mayor Cook noted, “Now we have the new team.... “

After presentations to Fernandez, Cook said he hoped he hoped he will “fill the shoes” of the outgoing mayor.

Cook noted that the previous year had featured the council grappling with issues that at times saw the panel, “All going different ways and we were able to shout and argue,” and, “Then walk out of here, not even talk about the meeting and go get a Coke.”

Cook told the council he appreciated their support.

Several public speakers earlier in the meeting accompanied by more than a dozen others had addressed the council on the rising rates of city utilities, specifically the sewer processing surcharge, which had almost doubled to $1.12 per 100 cubic feet effective November 1.

“I sympathize with the citizens,” said Cook. “I’m also paying for it,” and he noted a rate study has been launched looking for solutions to lowering the fees, although there are “no promises.... “

He thanked staff for their support and noted that Santa Paula is “Going to be that bright star in the sky,” especially with Limoneira East Area 1 and East Area 2 residential and commercial development in the near future. 

It is a project that “Staff is working hard on even though we are understaffed,” in various departments. 

“I thank my wife Sally for putting up with this now for three years and several years prior,” and Cook noted that council service, “takes all of us as a unit, a strong family unit and social unit within the community.”

The council is elected to serve the people and Cook urged that residents never hesitate to stop council members to discuss issues and concerns.

“Even if we don’t speak Spanish, still stop us,” as someone to translate is always nearby. 

“I hope Santa Paula will move forward,” rapidly to 2014-2015 when “Limoneira is coming on board,” with the start of 1,500 residential units and commercial development and “That will be so positive.”

Of those struggling to pay rising utility bills, “We all are residents up here and we feel your pain,” said Cook.

A lifelong Santa Paula resident, Cook is retired from the Santa Paula Police Department and later the Ventura County Public Defender’s office. He also served the city as a Planning Commissioner from 1993 to 1998.

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