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Herb Wesson elected as L.A. City Council's first black president [Updated]

November 23, 2011 | 11:39 am

Los Angeles City Councilman Herb Wesson made history on Wednesday, with his colleagues voting unanimously to name him the council’s first African American president.

But that vote may show up in the history books with an asterisk. Wesson’s two black colleagues, both of whom have had strained relations with him in recent weeks, did not show up.

Councilman Bernard C. Parks, who for days refused to say whether he would vote for Wesson, called in sick Wednesday morning. Councilwoman Jan Perry received permission for an excused absence, but  when called by The Times, she would not say where she would be instead of the council meeting.

Councilman Bill Rosendahl called the situation “unfortunate,” saying Wesson, 60, would make a great president when he takes the chair on Jan. 2. Councilman Richard Alarcon, who served in the Legislature with Wesson, said he would let the public form their own opinions on the absence of Perry and Parks.

“I don’t think it’s significant,” he added. “Herb Wesson will be the next president, and I think it may be that their absence is in recognition of that. I don’t read more into it than that.”

In a speech after the vote, Wesson said the day was "practically perfect."

"If I could look at the front row and see my mother, it would be a perfect day," he said, referring to his mother Gladys, who passed away last summer.

[Updated at 12:52 p.m.: After the meeting, Wesson said he was “sad” about the absence of his two colleagues. “I just thought they should have been there,” he said. “But hey, life goes on.”]

The vote drew a large audience, including Police Chief Charlie Beck, former city commissioner Christopher Pak and Shaul Kuba, a principal with the development firm CIM Group. Also in the chamber were an array of black current and former politicians, including former Assemblymen Mike Davis and Mervyn Dymally and former City Councilman Nate Holden, Wesson’s onetime boss.

Perry, a candidate for mayor in 2013, abruptly left the council’s No. 2 leadership post two weeks ago, complaining that deals were being worked out behind the scenes for the presidency and the upcoming process of redistricting, where the boundaries of 15 council districts will be redrawn. Asked if she had issues with Wesson, Perry responded: “I’m not going to say.”

Parks, in turn, was unhappy with the fact that Andrew Westall, a high-level aide to Wesson, was appointed to run the 21-member commission that will redraw the district maps. He went to the commission to argue against Westall’s hiring.

Nevertheless, Parks’ son, who is also his chief of staff, insisted that his boss really has the flu. He said Parks went home early on Tuesday.

“It’s his second sick day in 46 years, so I think he’s due,” said Bernard Parks Jr.


Wesson nominated for L.A City Council president

Garcetti backs Wesson as Council's first black president

Herb Wesson's people skills will be tested as L.A. Council president

-- David Zahniser at Los Angeles City Hall

Photo: Los Angeles City Councilman Herb Wesson. Credit: Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times