CAPITOLA -- For Kirby Nicol, stepping down Wednesday after eight years on the City Council, it was a roller coaster ride.
"I'm leaving a happy man," he said, grateful for his experience in public service though it included a tsunami, fire, flooding and a lot of litigation.
Stephanie Harlan was chosen mayor and Sam Storey vice mayor unanimously after Ed Bottorff and Dennis Norton were sworn in, but most of the meeting was spent looking back and assessing the city's progress.
Nicol, who will travel to Thailand, Australia and New Zealand, said he is "a little jealous" of the new council, which will have the benefit of a quarter-cent sales tax that will bring in $900,000 a year for the next five years, when a previously approved tax expires.
"It will get us over the hump," said Nicol, pleased that decisions such as the cap on city pension contributions put Capitola in better shape than other municipalities.
Elected on a platform of financial responsibility, Nicol always focused on the city treasury.
He cited a list of accomplishments, including preserving the Bay Avenue senior complex, installing a tot park at the library, supporting volunteers to build a bandstand at Esplanade Park, repealing rent control, getting out of the mobile home landlord business, and instituting red-light enforcement on 41st Avenue, which he said cut accidents in half.
During his tenure, the city got a new city manager, police chief, finance
Nicol also poked fun at himself, referring to his controversial phone call to 911 for a ride home for an inebriated friend, saying, "I learned a new phone number: 423-1234. That's Yellow Cab."
He voiced frustration that the Rispin mansion remains closed and that the city has failed to build a skate park.
For the future, he predicted the community will have to rely on "self-help" rather than a state or federal bailout.
Harlan said she didn't always agree with Nicol but appreciated the way he brought up facts and figures to bolster his arguments.
"We treated our disagreements in a gentlemanly manner," said Councilman Dennis Norton.
Storey thanked Nicol for his diligence in acquiring the rail trail, "which at times seemed an impossible task."
Storey said had learned from Nicol that "sometimes you have to make hard, unpopular decisions, but they are the right decisions and you have to stand by them."
In his last remarks as mayor, Michael Termini observed that Nicol says the same thing, whether over coffee or in front of the camera, "a rare quality."
Harlan thanked Termini for his leadership, for adding humor and color to the community, and for running meetings on time and being polite and thoughtful.
"Your shoes can't be filled," she said.
Follow Sentinel reporter Jondi Gumz on Twitter at Twitter.com/jondigumz