OAKLEY -- The City Council has decided to rethink who will serve as mayor this year in response to a council member's claim that he was shut out of the process.
Councilman Randy Pope called for a revote this week, arguing that his colleagues' decision to break with the tradition of rotating the mayor's seat deprives him of the chance to move into the top spot before the end of his term.
The council last month reappointed Kevin Romick to serve a second consecutive year as mayor after Vice Mayor Carol Rios declined the nomination, saying she couldn't devote sufficient time to the job while tending to her husband's medical needs.
Rios agreed to remain in her current seat instead. She was absent at Tuesday's meeting.
But preserving the status quo is a departure from the usual way of doing things: Since Oakley became a city 13 years ago, the vice mayor has stepped into the mayor's role after serving a year in the secondary position.
Pope was next in line to become vice mayor, so he was taken aback when the votes didn't go as expected.
"I'm trying not to take it personally, but as you can imagine, it's pretty hard not to," he said before proposing that the council reconsider its decision.
Rios already has been Oakley's mayor as has Romick -- both have held the office twice. Pope added that it would be the first time in the city's history that a council member has been deprived of the chance to be mayor.
Pope's term ends in 2014, which means that according to custom he would have to be vice mayor now to become mayor his final year in office.
Having the title is important to him for a number of reasons, Pope said after Tuesday's session.
Apart from the prestige that comes with the designation, the mayor decides which matters appear on council agendas and has the power to set the tone of public discussions, he said.
"You run the council meetings and I have my own ideas on how people who come to (them) should be treated," Pope said, noting that members of the public who have voiced their opinions sometimes have encountered the disrespect of dismissive attitudes from city officials.
"We work for them," Pope said. "We're not the emperor -- we're public servants. They are our bosses."
In the end, the rest of the council agreed to revisit the issue, which likely will happen at its Jan. 22 meeting.
Reach Rowena Coetsee at 925-779-7141. Follow her on Twitter.com/RowenaCoetsee.