San Ramon welcomed three familiar faces back to the City Council on Tuesday night, with re-elected Mayor Bill Clarkson and councilmen Phil O'Loane and Scott Perkins taking the oath of office for their new terms.
About 150 people attended the festive swearing-in ceremony -- the first in the new San Ramon City Hall -- that also featured performances from local youth in Korean drum, Chinese lion dance and Indian Bhangra dance groups to celebrate the occasion and San Ramon's multicultural community.
“We all care about the same things: family, our beautiful natural surroundings, a financially secure future, a safe place to live, work and play, and a willingness to invest to make that happen,” O’Loane said during brief remarks about his four-year-term ahead.
Clarkson, O'Loane and Perkins earned re-election comfortably Nov. 8, with the incumbent councilmen finishing well ahead of two newcomer challengers and the mayor appearing on the ballot unopposed.
Each man marked the start of his new term by getting sworn in separately by city clerk Renee Beck while joined by his wife -- and a daughter too, in Perkins' case -- at the front of the council chamber at the months-old City Hall with family, friends, current and former city officials and other well-wishers in the audience.
The mayor and councilmen gave roughly five-minute remarks at the onset of their new terms Tuesday, with a common thread of thanking their family, city staff and local residents for their support.
“This is the greatest city staff in the state of California, and possibly in the entire country,” Perkins said. “Each and every one dedicates themselves to serving the citizens of San Ramon. And for that, we live in one of greatest cities in the entire country.”
“To talk about what our wives and families put up with … all we can always say to our spouses is how much we appreciate what you put up with, because you do,” Clarkson said. “The burden that they carry at times is phenomenal. So, thank you.”
For Clarkson, his new two-year term that runs through December 2018 marks his third straight term after first being elected in 2011. San Ramon mayors are limited to a maximum of four terms.
A former 12-year San Ramon Valley school board member and a local real estate professional for more than three decades, Clarkson ran without opposition this time around, garnering 96.89% of the vote when ballots were tallied last month. The rest of the vote went to write-in candidates.
O'Loane, a councilman since 2011 who also works full-time as a medical program director for Kaiser Permanente, was the top vote-getter during this year's council election, receiving 16,175 votes, or 36.11% of the vote.
Perkins is starting his 14th year on the council. A retired mechanical engineer at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory who still works there part-time, Perkins finished in second place during the November election with 14,727 votes or 32.88%.
The pair defeated first-time candidates Sabina Zafar and Susmita Nayak in the race for two available council seats. Zafar, a business technology director and member of the city's Transportation Advisory Committee, came in third at 18.03% with 8,077 votes. Nayak, a local engineer, rounded out the balloting with 5,648 votes or 12.61%.
Perkins and O'Loane will serve four-year terms that run through December 2020. There are no term limits for City Council.
They return with Clarkson to the five-member dais with Dave Hudson and Harry Sachs, with whom they've served on the council since late 2013 -- the last odd-year election before city voters approved a cost-saving move to switch San Ramon to even-year elections to sync with other election cycles in Contra Costa County.
While the council looks the same as in recent years, the oath-of-office ceremony had a new feel compared to years' past.
This marked the first swearing-in event at the two-story, state-of-the-art City Hall that opened in April in a prominent location on Bollinger Canyon Road near Central Park, the Library, Community Center, Bishop Ranch Business Park, Iron Horse Regional Trail and the site of the planned City Center at Bishop Ranch retail, residential and commercial complex.
City Hall's rotunda -- decked out for the holidays with a Christmas tree and other decorations, mainly in blue, white and silver colors -- played host Tuesday night to cultural performances by local musical and dance youth groups, also a new component of the ceremony.
The Hansamo Korean Drummers led off before the swearing-in. The group of about 20 boys and girls played Samulnori, a form of traditional Korean folk music played to welcome the new year or to celebrate an event.
Next up, six young Chinese lion dancers from Kungfu Dragon USA performed dances intended to scare away evil spirits and bring good luck to the audience. Most recognized with Chinese New Year celebrations, the dances also occur at other special occasions to bring good fortune.
During the performance, Clarkson fed a head of lettuce to the lion dancers, who then spread the lettuce pieces throughout the audience. Picking greens such as lettuce is a symbol for wealth and fortune in Chinese culture.
The lion dancers then led the councilmen and audience in procession into the council chamber for the swearing-in ceremony, which was a formal meeting of the City Council. The San Ramon Police Department honor guard presented the flags and led the Pledge of Allegiance.
After the 25-minute meeting, the councilmen and audience returned to the rotunda for a reception during which four Indian Bhangra dancers from the San Ramon Arts and Cultural Association performed.
A traditional and lively form of folk dance from the Punjab region of northern India, Bhangra is performed to celebrate the harvest festival Vaisakhi and other important occasions. The dance form is said to symbolize the imagination, talent, potential and charisma of the Punjabi people.