The Los Angeles City Council Tuesday appointed Greig Smith to temporarily fill his former District 12 seat, which was vacated at the beginning of the year by Mitchell Englander, who stepped down to take a job in the private sector.
Smith represented the San Fernando Valley district from 2003 to 2011 and vowed to only fill the seat until a special election is held to name a permanent replacement to serve out the rest of Englander’s term.
The City Council approved Smith’s appointment on a 13-0 vote during its first meeting in over a month since going on a holiday break. Council President Herb Wesson introduced the motion proposing Smith’s appointment during at the council’s last meeting of 2018.
“Not only (was) Mr. Smith one of the highest respected members of this council, he was very operative, he knew how to get things done, and just a very good person, made solid arguments,” Wesson said during a meeting of the Rules, Elections and Intergovernmental Relations Committee, which approved Smith’s appointment just before the full council met. ” I can’t think of a more experienced individual that we have anywhere in this city to be considered to come in and serve as a voting member of this council.”
Englander served as Smith’s chief of staff, and officially gave his support to his old boss during a farewell speech in December as Smith sat in the front row.
“He has been my mentor, not just as a city council member and as his chief of staff, but as a role model, as a father, as a husband, as a leader in the community, as an individual with integrity,” Englander said then of Smith. “The fact that he’s agreed to step up again — the fact that his wife let him – – I hope that you will all vote for him in January.”
Englander announced in October that he would be stepping down at the end of 2018 to take a job with the Oak View Group, a global sports and entertainment advisory, development and investment company.
Smith’s appointment has to be approved by a majority vote of the council because he has been granted a seat as a voting member of the body until the position is filled through a special election in June. A runoff, if necessary, would be held in August. Englander’s term ends Dec. 13, 2020.
In recent years, the common practice when a City Council seat has become vacant is for the council president to appoint a “caretaker” for the district — essentially a non-voting member who oversees the day-to-day operations of the district until the seat is filled through an election.
When Felipe Fuentes announced in September 2016 that he was stepping down, Wesson appointed himself as caretaker of the district until the seat was filled about 10 months later by Councilwoman Monica Rodriguez, who was elected May 2017 and officially took the seat that July.
When he announced his intention to seek Smith’s appointment late last year, Wesson said each district is not a “cookie-cutter” situation, and he was considering the option due to Smith being available to fill the role, being highly respected by the current members of the council and pledging not to run in the special election.
Wesson said the City Council had not appointed a voting member to fill a vacant seat since the 1960s, but that Smith’s appointment might could a new model.
“Now I am not suggesting or promoting for in the future that every time there is an open seat that we would appoint someone as a voting member, but I think that that option should be vetted, because in some situations, when the stars align perfectly, there could be perfect people,” Wesson said at the committee meeting.
Smith also said he believed that appointing voting members to fill vacant seats could be a new model.
“I think what you are doing today is really forward thinking. For 50 years this council has not appointed anyone to fill a vacancy, there’s been numerous vacancies that left a quarter million people without representation, which is a violation of our constitution, for one,” Smith told the committee. “So what you are doing is very forward thinking, and it should be the model for the future.”
Wesson said the estimated cost of the special election is around $2.5 million, and he thinks the City Council in the future should consider appointing voting members to serve the full duration of a vacant seat’s term to save the city some money.
“By appointing Mr. Smith now, it will give the council the option to look at those things,” Wesson said. “The only concern is you don’t want to give people an advantage.”
Smith is currently the president of his own consulting firm.