Three’s a charm for Mayor Walt Keller

With a call for broader public participation in civic affairs and a promise of shorter City Council meetings, Walt Keller was sworn in as mayor Monday for the third time since Malibu’s incorporation.

He will hold the title until August, when Carolyn Van Horn, now serving as mayor pro tem, takes over the post.

After Judge John Merrick administered the oath of office, Keller called on Malibu residents to play a more active role in the community. To encourage participation, Keller promised to hold breakfast meetings in every neighborhood in the city, with an open invitation to the public to come air its grievances.

Without providing any details, he also promised council meetings of shorter duration, so that the community spends less idle time at meetings waiting for the issue that interests them to be heard by the council.

“You’re the stockholders of this corporation, and we’re the board of directors,” he told a packed council chamber.

Keller also promised to continue his efforts to acquire open space and ball fields, and to build a senior center and a studio for community television production.

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Councilman Tom Hasse, stuck in the blizzard in the Midwest, phoned in his congratulations to Keller and the new city commissioners, who were also sworn in Monday. His remarks were played over the loud speaker at the meeting.

Outgoing Mayor Joan House was praised by a string of speakers for the even temper and pleasant demeanor she displayed during her term as mayor.

“She was a joy to work with,” said Susan Little, senior field representative for U.S. Rep. Brad Sherman. Little presented House with a certificate to commemorate a flag flown over the U.S. Capitol in her honor.

Susan Nissman, of L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky’s office, said that House had kept the doors of communication open between the city and the county to solve problems, like the closure of PCH. And Nissman repeated Rabbi Benjamin Herson’s earlier praise of House as a “rare, congenial spirit.”

In May, the council voted to change the mayoral term to eight months. At the time, Keller and Van Horn on a 5-0 vote were chosen for their respective positions, with Van Horn serving as mayor until April 2000. Councilman Harry Barovsky was chosen for mayor pro tem for the term starting in August.

While the post of mayor is essentially a ceremonial one — the mayor presides at council meetings, but holds no veto power — some City Council observers have questioned whether making Van Horn mayor in August will unfairly raise her profile at the time she will likely seek another term on the council.

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The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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