By Ashly McGlone

SAN RAMON -- Just two men have indicated they may run for mayor of San Ramon this fall, and one is a familiar face who may not be able to run at all.

Last week, former Mayor Abram Wilson took out nomination papers for the mayor's spot, even though the city charter prohibits an elected mayor from serving "more than four two-year terms or eight years total."

Wilson says he feels compelled to run after hearing complaints about current Mayor Bill Clarkson.

"If residents felt that the city was, and is, progressing, I wouldn't get the phone calls. I wouldn't get stopped on the street," Wilson said. "I did it because of the pressure of the residents."

Calling Wilson's claims against him "appalling," Clarkson also questioned Wilson's attempt to run again despite the charter language.

"It seems very clear and very straightforward. There is no ambiguity there," Clarkson said.

Wilson first served as mayor in 2002 when it was a rotating role on the City Council. After the mayor's seat became an elected spot, Wilson ran unopposed and was elected mayor in 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2009, before being termed out in 2011.

Wilson says the word "consecutive" was inadvertently left out of the charter language, which he believes would make it clear that a person could run again as long as time served beyond eight years was not "consecutive" with his previous terms.


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Wilson said he is still unsure if he will submit his candidacy papers, but his aspirations for re-election have left some scratching their heads.

Interim City Attorney Bob Saxe said, "It says a total of eight years, and total is total." Asked if the city would prevent Wilson from running, Saxe said, "There is sufficient authority to make sure only people who are qualified are on the ballot."

He said Wilson's only recourse might be legal action, although it's unclear what legal footing he might have.

"I am fully aware of the policy and procedures and help set them as the first elected mayor of San Ramon," Wilson said, adding that the word "consecutive" could be added to the charter's wording.

Asked why he doesn't run for a council seat to avoid the issue, Wilson said, "The candidates running for council, I believe for the most part, have the best interests of San Ramon."

As for Clarkson, who is seeking re-election, Wilson said, "I've stayed out of it, but now I can't sit by and let him think that everyone is satisfied with how he is leading."

Wilson said Clarkson has failed to collaborate with other Tri-Valley cities, failed to properly run council meetings, spent $10 million to fix a tree problem in Dougherty Valley and inappropriately handed out his real estate business cards at a town hall meeting -- all disputed by Clarkson.

"I didn't hand any cards out. ... When anybody comes to me at a function and wants any real estate advice, I refer them to somebody else," said Clarkson, elected mayor in 2011 after serving as a parks commissioner and school board member. "For 14 years, I have been in elected office, and you can talk to hundreds of people who have seen me in office. That is a crass thing for him to have said."

As for the removal of Dougherty Valley trees, Clarkson said trees that were clogging water and sewer lines have been replaced on a case-by-case basis. The cost has been $60,000, not $10 million, city officials said.

Clarkson said he is running because "there is a lot of stuff we got accomplished these last two years, but there is a lot more to get done."

Accomplishments include reduction of the city's structural deficit from $4 million to $1 million and improved communication through town hall meetings and social media, Clarkson said. "We are getting our financial house in order in these tough times."

There is more at stake this election than any other year.

Whoever is elected mayor might serve for three years and council members for five years, a year more than usual, if another measure on the Nov. 5 ballot passes -- that would change election years from odd to even.

Ashly McGlone covers San Ramon. Contact her at 510-293-2463. Follow her at Twitter.com/AshlyReports.