Filseth picked as Palo Alto mayor, Fine as vice as council shrinks from 9 to 7 members

Councilman Adrian Fine, left, was elected vice mayor and Councilman Eric Filseth was chosen as mayor last night. Post photo by Allison Levitsky.

Daily Post Staff Writer

Palo Alto City Council paid its respects to three departing members last night (Jan. 7) as it shrunk down in size for the first time from nine to seven, welcomed Councilwoman Alison Cormack and picked its new leaders for 2019: Mayor Eric Filseth and Vice Mayor Adrian Fine.

Filseth, a fiscal watchdog and Residentialist, served as vice mayor last year under Councilwoman Liz Kniss as mayor.

“We all come from different political angles up here, and I think very much this year we’re committed to being able to work well together, hopefully make the community proud of us,” Kniss said. “As I nominate Eric, it is with great comfort knowing that he will really do a good job.”

Councilman Tom DuBois spoke to Filseth’s “engineering mindset,” “data-based approach to problem solving” and high standard of personal ethics.

A mayor who seeks balance

Fine said that as mayor, Filseth would be able to forge compromises for the benefit of the public.

“I find that you’re always trying for balance,” Fine said. “I think you’ll do a great job as mayor in 2019.”

Fine, the council’s youngest member, at 32, was elected to his first term on council in 2016 and has been the council’s staunchest advocate of dense, transit-oriented housing.

Kniss nominated Fine, she said, because of his integrity, his intelligence and his succinct and persuasive mode of expression.

“His background, by the way, is in planning of all things, so what better could you have than somebody who has their masters, essentially, in city planning?” Kniss said. “Adrian is among the youngest of us, but that doesn’t mean that he’s any less effective.”

Filseth was elected with a unanimous vote of the newly seven-member council. Fine was elected 6-1 with a dissenting vote from Councilwoman Lydia Kou, a Residentialist who has frequently butted heads with Fine.

Kou nominated DuBois, who declined.

“A girl’s got to try,” Kou said.

Less ideology

In making a pitch for compromise on a council that she believes is growing less ideologically divided, Kniss rattled off a history of the City Council going back to the 1950s, when the 15-member shrunk down to 13 and then in 1966, to nine.

The 1960s saw a vote over the construction of the Oregon Expressway that was so divisive, all of the council members were recalled in 1967.

The 1980s, when Palo Alto had truly transformed from a college town to the home of Silicon Valley, also saw controversy among city leaders, with controversies around the same issues that plague council meetings today: growth, traffic and the balance of jobs and housing.

“So as we look at this today, we’ve had five years of divided votes, some divisiveness and some rancor,” Kniss said. “I think we have worked very hard this year to become a more moderate, less confrontational and a more civilized group of nine.”

After 53 years with a nine-member council, last night was a historic meeting in that the council shrunk down to seven members for the first time, pursuant to a 2014 ballot measure.

Council members Greg Scharff and Karen Holman both termed out and Councilman Cory Wolbach lost his re-election bid in November.


Mayor is shown first, followed by vice mayor. An asterisk (*) denotes a year in which the previous year’s vice mayor became mayor. Before 1982, mayoral terms ran from July through June. After that, council converted to calendar-year terms.

2019, Eric Filseth, Adrian Fine
2018, Liz Kniss, Eric Filseth
2017 Greg Scharff, Liz Kniss
2016 Pat Burt, Greg Scharff
2015 Karen Holman, Greg Schmid
2014 Nancy Shepherd, Liz Kniss*
2013 Greg Scharff, Nancy Shepherd*
2012 Yiaway Yeh, Greg Scharff*
2011 Sid Espinosa, Yiaway Yeh*
2010 Pat Burt, Sid Espinosa

2009 Peter Drekmeier, Jack Morton*
2008 Larry Klein, Peter Drekmeier*
2007 Yoriko Kishimoto, Larry Klein*
2006 Judy Kleinberg, Yoriko Kishimoto*
2005 Jim Burch, Judy Kleinberg*
2004 Bern Beecham, Jim Burch*
2003 Dena Mossar, Bern Beecham*
2002 Vic Ojakian, Dena Mossar*
2001 Sandy Eakins, Vic Ojakian*
2000 Liz Kniss, Sandy Eakins

1999 Gary Fazzino, Lanie Wheeler
1998 Dick Rosenbaum, Micki Schneider
1997 Joe Huber, Ron Andersen*
1996 Lanie Wheeler, Joe Huber*
1995 Joe Simitian, Lanie Wheeler*
1994 Liz Kniss, Joe Simitian*
1993 Jean McCown, Liz Kniss*
1992 Gary Fazzino, Jean McCown*
1991 Jack Sutorius, Gary Fazzino
1990 Mike Cobb, Gail Woolley

1989 Larry Klein, Betsy Bechtel*
1988 Jack Sutorius, Larry Klein*
1987 Gail Woolley, Jack Sutorius*
1986 Mike Cobb, Gail Woolley*
1985 Leland Levy, Mike Cobb*
1984 Larry Klein, Leland Levy
1983 Betsy Bechtel, Gary Fazzino*
1982 Fred Eyerly, Betsy Bechtel
1980-81 Alan Henderson, Ellen Fletcher

1979-80 Alan Henderson, Byron Sher*
1978-79 Scott Carey, Alan Henderson
1977-78 Byron Sher, Frances Brenner
1976-77 Stanley Norton, Roy Clay
1975-76 Stanley Norton, Roy Clay
1974-75 Byron Sher, Alan Henderson
1973-74 Kirke Comstock, Enid Pearson
1972-73 Kirke Comstock, Stanley Norton
1971-72 Kirke Comstock, Stanley Norton
1970-71 Jack R. Wheatley, Frank Gallagher*

1969-70 Edward Arnold, Jack R. Wheatley
1968-69 Edward Arnold, Frances Dias*
1967-68 Frances Dias, Edward Arnold
1966-67 Frances Dias, William P. Rus
1965-66 Edward Arnold, Robert Debs

1 Comment

  1. Sad to see Greg Scharff go. He was the strongest advocate of small, independently owned businesses on council. Holman, on the other hand, was an enemy to small business, so maybe their departures will be a wash.

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