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Wesson to be nominated for L.A. City Council president

Los Angeles Councilman Herb Wesson
Los Angeles City Council President Eric Garcetti said Thursday that he will nominate Councilman Herb Wesson as his successor, a move that could pave the way for the council to elect its first African American president in its 161-year history.

Garcetti, who is running for mayor, plans to introduce a motion Friday calling for Wesson to become president at the council’s first meeting in January. Wesson, 60, has already signaled interest in the post and a vote is expected Wednesday.

"Councilmember Wesson is a proven leader who has the experience and skills to guide the council through the economic challenges and tough decisions we face,” Garcetti said in a prepared statement. He also said he supports Councilman Ed Reyes as president pro tem.

The announcement comes two weeks after the abrupt resignation of council’s president pro tem, Jan Perry, who said she did not like behind-the-scenes negotiations over the presidency. And it ends the speculation that has long swirled around Wesson, who has been asking his colleagues for their support in recent weeks.

 

The presidency is not the biggest milestone for Wesson, who already spent six years in the Assembly, two of them as speaker – one of the most powerful political jobs in California. Nevertheless, Wesson would make city history if Garcetti’s motion is approved.

“I’m not big on symbolism, but I do think any and every barrier we can tear down makes it easier for other people,” said Wesson, whose district takes in such neighborhoods as Koreatown, Jefferson Park, West Adams and Mid City.

Councilmen Tom LaBonge, Bill Rosendahl and Paul Krekorian said Thursday that they would support Wesson as part of the transition.

“I don’t think it’s a good time for the council to engage in a lot of division and conflict” over the presidency, Krekorian said. “We need to focus on the problems the city is facing. Continuing to loom over everything is a budget challenge that is nowhere near finished.”

The change in leadership could spark a number of shifts on the council. Wesson said he wants to “cut down some of the theatrics” during council meetings and make the sessions move faster. More important, Wesson is viewed as being closely aligned with Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, whose office has had a sometimes prickly relationship with Garcetti and Perry.

As president, Wesson would have the power to set each council agenda and decide which of the council’s 15 members sit on various committees.  He would also serve on the powerful committee that negotiates contracts with public employee unions.

Wesson was chief of staff to former Councilman Nate Holden and former County Supervisor Yvonne Burke. He was elected to the council in 2005.

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- David Zahniser at Los Angeles City Hall

Photo: Los Angeles Councilman Herb Wesson at a transportation hearing last year. Credit: Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times

 
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