Jennings steps up to mayoral plate

Ken Kearsley passes the gavel to incoming Mayor Jeff Jennings. This is the last term for both on the city council. Photo by Heather O'Quinn / TMT

Outgoing Mayor Ken Kearsley compares current city council to past councils, citing civility and good relationships with city staff, which did not exist in the past, he says.

By Jonathan Friedman / Assistant Editor

The beginning of the end of the Ken Kearsley/Jeff Jennings era on the City Council was set into motion Monday night as Kearsley stepped down as mayor after serving his traditional year of service, and Jennings took his place as the city’s leader. The two men have one year left in their council terms, and are not eligible to run again in 2008 due to term limits.

In his outgoing remarks as mayor, Kearsley praised the members of the current council and former Councilmember Joan House, who served with him from 2000 to 2004.

“We have worked together tirelessly to bring this city to a point where we can say we are really proud of what we have done,” Kearsley said.

The outgoing mayor conducted a PowerPoint presentation to show what the city government has accomplished during the past few years, including the major purchases of a portion of Bluffs Park and the Chili Cook-Off site, as well as various public works projects.

Kearsley said civility among council members, and a good relationship with the city staff, two things he said did not exist with previous councils, have enabled the city to make progress.

“People are reaching out and making decisions without worrying about their gluteus maximus,” Kearsley said. “That’s important in a city. People are able to make decisions because of the policies of this council.”

He continued, “We have worked together for one purpose, to make Malibu even more exceptional, and we are in that process.”

Kearsley also credited his wife of 46 years, Barbara, who was in attendance at the meeting, for helping the city.

“[She] is basically the den mother for Malibu,” Kearsley said. “She is our cheerleader. When somebody does something well, all of you will get an e-mail or a ‘that a boy’ or ‘that a girl.'”

Additionally, he thanked the community activists who have helped with many projects.

“The citizens of Malibu have gotten behind this city and said, ‘Yes, go ahead and do those things. Make those changes. Buy those parks. Get that parks and recreation program up and running.’ We’re proud of you and it’s been a pleasure to serve.”

Jennings was sworn in by his wife, Kris, and sons, Austin, Tyler and Miles, for his third stint as mayor. After the installment, he said, “Assuming the role of mayor of the city is a great honor, and I am very mindful of the honor… It’s also a challenge because one of the things you have to learn is that you are the public face and the public voice of the city. And you have to speak not with your own voice and your own thoughts, but you have to represent as accurately as you can, the feelings, the voices [of the residents] and the policies of the city. And I will do my best to try to carry out that role in a way that I hope will be satisfactory to the council and the citizens as a whole.”

Jennings said he believed this council was unusual because different members were able to take on specific projects, while there was no worry that others would become jealous. He said this was not possible on the councils on which he served in the ’90s. He pointed to a recent example of Conley Ulich and Councilmember Andy Stern taking on the liquefied natural gas issue, while Kearsley and Councilmember Sharon Barovsky headed the effort to purchase the Chili Cook-Off site and develop Legacy Park.

“We can work together and allow each other to take on our own projects without feeling the rivalry or bitterness,” Jennings said. “And I think it’s made us a more efficient and a more effective City Council.”

Conley Ulich was selected by her peers to serve as mayor pro tem. The shortest-serving member of the council, this marks her first time at the second-in-command position. She was sworn in by her daughter, Katarina, while her husband David Ulich, son, Konrad and her son’s friend, Dylan Strickland, stood by.

Following her installment, she talked about her feelings about the council. “Even though we don’t always get along, we always like each other and respect each other,” Conley Ulich said. “And I feel blessed to know all of you and work with you to make the city the best it can be.”

Conley Ulich is the only member of the council eligible to run again after her term expires next March. She has not announced publicly whether she plans to do so.