With only three candidates nominated to run for three open seats on the Los Altos Hills Town Council, the council voted Thursday morning to cancel the November election and appoint the candidates instead.
The council convened a special meeting at 8 a.m. in order to meet a 5 p.m. deadline required by the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters office.
Mayor Rich Larsen was appointed to a second council term. John Harpootlian, who has served on the Planning Commission for six years, was appointed, as was Courtenay C. Corrigan, who has served on the Pathways Committee.
The two new appointees will be officially seated at a meeting in December. The town saved almost $22,000 by canceling the election.
Los Altos Hills is not alone in facing the question of whether to forgo an election or hold it, even when there are only enough candidates for the open seats. The cities of Campbell, Los Gatos and Saratoga were in the same position. this November and appoint the two incumbents who were running. , at a cost of $37,700, because there had been potential candidates that some said had taken out papers but did did not complete them. Some said they strongly believed that the other candidates had been intimidated by negative attacks before they could complete their nomination papers.
Town Clerk Deborah Padovan said she believes that this is the first time Los Altos Hills has cancelled an election, after researching records and consulting with former Town Clerk Karen Jost.
The vote to cancel the election was made by three members of the Town Council: Vice-Mayor Gary Waldeck and Council Members Jean Mordo and Ginger Summit. Mayor Rich Larsen, who was one of the three candidates, recused himself from the vote, as well as the vote to appoint him to the Town Council.
“I'd like to thank Council members Jean Mordo, Gary Waldeck and Ginger Summit for the decision not hold an election and accept the nomination of John Harpootlian, Rich Larsen and Courtenay Corrigan,” Harpootlian said.
“We represent a good cross-section of the different interests in town,” Harpootlian said. “I look forward to serving with the new council members and John Radford and Gary Waldeck.”
Corrigan said she was delighted to be appointed, and that she could spend the months she would been campaigning to prepare for the council position.
“I’ll be meeting with residents and getting my arms around the job,” she said “I plan to be at as many council meetings as possible.”
Corrigan added that she would bring a young-family perspective to the council, something a little different from the usual demographic of the body.
Padovan told the council the town would save $20,677.41 by cancelling the election. The amount budgeted for the election was $25,000.
While budget savings was a consideration, several of the council members discussed how considerable amount of effort that had been devoted to advertising and recruiting potential candidates over several months.
Even one of the candidates said he was actively involved in trying to recruit additional candidates.
“Collectively, we may have talked to 70 or more people,” said Harpootlian, who is a member of a community group called Hills 2000.
The decision was not made without some sense of a loss of choice for voters, even though no other names had been raised as potential write-in candidates.
Resident Jim Abraham said he liked both of the new candidates, as well as the incumbent. And yet, "I think democracy should win in this case," he said, arguing to hold the election, adding "Twenty-thousand dollars doesn't seem like a lot of money."
Waldeck said he was "strongly in tune with Jim Abraham" on that matter. "I feel we are being deprived of that, no matter what we do." Ultimately, he said, echoing what other council members said, it seemed unlikely that a write-in candidate would appear after many months of recruiting candidates, and conduct an effective campaign.