Fran Adelson’s decision to step down this week after six months as Long Beach City Council president has caught her fellow council members off guard.
Adelson, who was the first woman to be sworn in as council president in Long Beach on Jan. 1, will officially give up her post at Thursday’s City Council meeting. Councilman Len Torres is expected to win election to the position in what will now be a six-month rotating basis, with each council member getting a shot at the top seat. Councilman Scott Mandel is expected to assume the vice presidency.
Torres said he was disappointed that Adelson, who was elected to her first four-year council post in November, decided to step down as council leader.
“She was very proud to do it,” he said of her decision to be president. “It was groundbreaking, an historic thing.
“It was a surprise,” he added about her decision to step down. “I wanted her to stay longer.”
Councilman Michael Fagen said he was stunned that she relinquished the post after only six months.
“It’s unfortunate,” he said. “She was the first female council president and for her to leave so abruptly is disappointing."
Fagen called it “unprecedented in the history of the city” the move to elect a council president every six months.
“Who does that?” Fagen said. “I’m not aware of any governments being run that way.”
Gordon Tepper, a spokesman for the city, said the six-month rotation would promote “accountability, transparency and openness in government.”
“Instead of having one person there forever, a council member will be president every six months,” Tepper said.
He added that it was the council’s decision to rotate the position every six months.
But Torres said he doesn’t remember any discussions on the rotation of the council presidency.
“There was never even talk about a rotation,” he said. “It seems to be an interpretation of why Fran left.
“The problem with having a six-month term is it’s like having a lame duck, which is not such a good thing,” Torres said. “I question it.”
Fagen said the city’s stationery and signs would have to be redone to reflect the change in leadership every six months, which would be a cost the city could do without during these tough fiscal times.
“It’s expensive and that’s another issue that will be brought up,” Torres said.
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After the November elections, Torres was nominated for president, but had to decline because he was president of an organization for handicapped children in Harlem.
“I could not be a good president in either place if my time is split,” Torres said.
As a result, he nominated Adelson, who also works full-time in real estate.
“She’s a busy lady and she found being president was more cumbersome than she thought,” Torres said.
He said the Harlem organization has since hired a deputy director, which will take some duties away from him and thus allow him to perform a six-month stint as council president.
It was not surprising that a new president will be voted in, Torres said, because the council leader is not elected for any specific term.
“There are no term limits,” Tepper said.
Torres said the council president is mostly a figurehead, running council meetings and signing documents.
Adelson did not return a call for comment and neither did City Manager Jack Schnirman nor council members Mandel or John McLaughlin.
Thursday’s council meeting starts at 7 p.m. at City Hall.