The San Ramon City Council named retired U.S. Army colonel and former Federal Emergency Management Agency official Mark Armstrong to its vacant seat Wednesday, over a last-minute motion from Mayor Dave Hudson to instead fill the spot with former councilman Harry Sachs.

“I had Harry Sachs first because he was, by far, the best candidate,” Hudson said over the Zoom session.

Mark Armstrong appears in a frame grab during candidate interviews for the vacant District 2 San Ramon City Council seat. (Image courtesy of city of San Ramon/YouTube)

Hudson explained he liked all five candidates but thought Sachs’ experience would allow him to transition more easily into the two-year spot, which became available in Hudson’s District 2 when he was elected mayor in November, replacing termed-out Bill Clarkson.

Hudson was first elected in 1998 and is the longest serving council member in the city’s 37-year-history.

After the other three council members voted down Hudson’s motion, the mayor joined his colleagues to unanimously name Armstrong to the post. He praised all five candidates before the vote.

“If none of you are on the ballot in 2022, the city of San Ramon loses,” Hudson said.

Armstrong was up against Sachs — a teacher and councilman from 2013 to 2018 — as well as teacher and coach Dwight Pratt, and two alumni from San Ramon’s California High School: Santa Clara County prosecutor Patrick Vanier and Silicon Valley mechanical engineer Sara Lashanlo.

During the interviews, Armstrong said his top priority would be public safety, which shouldn’t come as a surprise. Armstrong served as FEMA’s Response Operations Director for the western states and Pacific territories from 2012 to 2016.

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Armstrong was officially sworn in Thursday by City Clerk Christina Franco. The council will ceremoniously welcome Armstrong at its meeting this Tuesday.

In his application, Armstrong also prioritized open space and neighborhood protection, fiscal responsibility, and maintaining the city’s quality of life.

“I have the experience and decision-making skills to lead as a councilmember and thoughtfully evaluate the issues facing the city,” Armstrong wrote. “I will work closely with city staff and partners to understand the issues and ensure we are prepared for disasters, honor our veterans and first responders and meet the needs of our citizens.”

Armstrong is a graduate of West Point and spent 30 years in the Army, retiring as a colonel in 2011. Along with his wife and four children, he has been a San Ramon resident for 16 years.

The council decided last month to fill the vacancy by appointment rather than special election, saving the city an estimated $250,000. Returning District 1 Councilman Scott Perkins and new District 3 Councilman Sridhar Verose were sworn-in last month. Vice Mayor Sabrina Zafar has two years left on her District 4 term.