At his final City Council meeting as an elected member, Justin Wedel — who often found himself as the “1” on 4-to-1 council votes, notably finance-related ones — had some parting words of advice for other unsuccessful 2020 council candidates, lest they be tempted to shy away from public life.

“Putting yourself in the limelight clearly is not always easy — it was never meant to be,” said Wedel, who finished fifth in a field of eight council candidates in November in seeking his third four-year council term. “But in the end we’re all better served for respectfully presenting our differing viewpoints than by casting aspersions and remaining silent.”

Newcomer Cindy Darling was sworn in to her council seat Tuesday — in a distanced way, over Zoom, of course — as were incumbents Kevin Wilk and Loella Haskew. Wilk was chosen to serve as mayor for the next year, and Councilman Matt Francois was named to be mayor pro-tem.

Even on a council that has been generally considered as fiscally conservative, Wedel’s staunch fiscal stance based on what he called “zero-based budgeting” often pitted him against fellow council members. He said he was glad that the council had recently approved some elements of his approach to budgeting, and noted that he never took a council stipend for eight years, thus saving the city about $120,000 over his two terms.

Despite the various disagreements over the years, other council members praised Wedel for his dedication and hard work, and for staying true to his principles. Wilk said he would miss some of the debates he and Wedel had; Haskew said she will miss Wedel’s sense of humor. Councilwoman Cindy Silva said, “The times we agreed, I was almost in shock.”

Words of wisdom

Francois said that, as a new council member two years ago, Wedel gave him a key piece of advice, which on Tuesday Francois in turn passed along to Darling, regarding council votes.

“When it gets to be a complicated motion, you said, ‘Let staff summarize it for you, and just say, “So moved!”‘”

Darling, a former city planning commissioner, noted 2020 is almost over, fortunately.

“I want to put 2020 in the rear-view mirror and move toward 2021, and toward the light,” Darling said.

Haskew agreed. “To paraphrase a Judith Viorst book title, ‘This has been Walnut Creek’s terrible, horrible, no good, very bad year,'” what with the COVID-19 pandemic’s effect on the city’s budget and on local businesses and arts programs, the health concerns that came with the pandemic and the social justice unrest still on the front burner almost a year and a half after the fatal police shooting of Miles Hall and from the more recent killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis. Those issues will still be with the city in 2021.

The social justice questions, in particular, were the chief motivator for four of the eight council candidates this year. One of them congratulated the winners, and told them their work has been cut out for them.

“So as you proudly stand there and take your oath, I hope you have that pit in your gut, and that thought in the back of your mind, that there is a significant amount of work to do,” said Kurtis Reese, who missed a council seat — Haskew’s — by fewer than 700 votes. “And I think it’s clear that the city will hold you accountable.”