LANCASTER – Sandra Johnson, CEO and Co-Founder of the University of the Antelope Valley, will be Lancaster’s new City Council member, occupying the seat recently vacated by Sherry Marquez, who resigned earlier this month due to family matters.
Johnson was one of three women on the short list of candidates that Mayor R. Rex Parris announced last week. In a news release issued September 22nd, Parris said he was considering Johnson, Air Force Veteran Cassandra Harvey and former Criminal Justice Commission member Sandy Smith.
At the City Council meeting Tuesday, the Mayor said he had received public comments for the past two weeks as to which of the three ladies he should appoint. He said, though all three ladies were extremely qualified, he had chosen Johnson because the other two candidates did not have the time required for the job.
“Right now, due to job commitments, they’re unable to devote the amount of energy that is required to be a City Council person,” Parris said.
While nominating Johnson to the Council, Parris attempted to simultaneously nominate Cassandra Harvey to the City’s Redevelopment Agency, saying Harvey would sit as a member of the Redevelopment Agency, but not on the Council.
City officials reminded Parris that an appointment to the Redevelopment Agency was not on the agenda. The Mayor ultimately decided to table Harvey’s nomination until the next meeting, and proceed with Johnson’s appointment to the City Council.
“That obviously means that Sandra Johnson would not sit on the Redevelopment Agency,” Parris said.
Johnson’s nomination sailed through the Council with no dissenting votes.
“I think Sandra Johnson has a proven track record of being a successful business woman,” said Vice Mayor Ron Smith. “And when it comes to economic growth and creating jobs, I think that’s what we need here in the city.”
“Sandra Johnson is a perfect match for this City Council and what she’ll add to it at this time,” said Council Member Marvin Crist.
Members of the community had other ideas about who would be the perfect match for the City Council. During the public comment period before the vote, several members of the community gave their take on who should occupy the vacant Council seat.
Elizabeth Helm urged the Council to consider diversity — not based on looks, but based on opinions and ideas.
“I would strongly encourage you to appoint someone who doesn’t work for you and doesn’t attend your specific church,” Helm said. “I think it’s important to get viewpoints from what you might see as outsiders, but I see as part of us.”
In a lengthy speech to the Council, Lancaster resident Michael Rives outlined his plans for the city and urged the mayor and Council members to consider him for the seat. Speaker David Grajeda also urged the Council to consider Rives. And speaker David Abber admonished the mayor for not considering any male candidates for the Council seat, citing gender discrimination.
“I think we deserve some answers on why you continue to discriminate,” Abber said. “You have divisive ways about who you want to put in here.”
Parris said new Council member Sandra Johnson will be sworn in at the next City Council meeting.