Featured Image: City Clerk Joanne Baade (pictured here) and City Treasurer Mark Taylor recently submitted mid-term resignations, leaving their seats open for the City Council to fill either through an appointment process or a special election. Photo: Shawn Raymundo
By C. Jayden Smith
City Clerk Joanne Baade and City Treasurer Mark Taylor are stepping down from their positions, prompting the San Clemente City Council on Tuesday, Oct. 18, to vote to fill the vacancies through recruitment and appointment.
Baade, who is serving her fourth term in office, submitted her resignation to the City Council on Oct. 1, calling her decision a “bittersweet moment,” as she has “loved serving the City of San Clemente.”
“But now that I am a grandmother, it is time for me to move on to a new chapter in my life,” Baade wrote about her decision. “I will miss working with you, the City staff, and the people of San Clemente, but I intend to stay in San Clemente and am available to help in this transition and beyond.”
One day after Baade notified the council of her decision, Taylor, who was appointed to the role in early 2013, emailed Baade to let her know of his own decision to also resign. Taylor also noted his availability to train or answer questions from his eventual replacement.
“It has been my pleasure and honor to serve the citizens of San Clemente in my role as City Treasurer since being appointed on March 19, 2013,” Taylor wrote.
Baade and Taylor were both reelected to office in 2020 to serve four-year terms that are set to expire in November 2024—leaving two years of time for their successors to fill. Their resignations will become effective 60 days from the dates their letters were sent, or sooner, depending on when their successors are appointed.
Under state law, a City Council is required to either appoint a person to fill the vacancy or call for a special election within 60 days of a resignation.
The council on Tuesday night unanimously voted to start a formal recruitment process to appoint a replacement to both roles, rather than call a special election, which could have cost the city between $322,722 and $377,435.
Councilmembers Steven Knoblock and Laura Ferguson touched on their unwillingness to conduct an expensive election process for a short two-year term, with Knoblock adding that he didn’t believe there was much of a choice to make.
Councilmember Kathy Ward didn’t believe the council should be the entity making the final decision on whom to appoint, and that if it respected San Clemente’s form of government, they should vote to have the acting city manager interview and appoint candidates.
However, City Attorney Scott Smith said that he had always interpreted the California Government Code to mean the council could not delegate and was solely responsible for voting on a replacement.
The council approved Mayor Gene James’ suggestion of advertising both vacancies in San Clemente Times to find San Clemente residents and registered voters for the positions, as well as placing the treasurer vacancy in the Orange County Business Journal.
The latter appeased Knoblock’s thoughts that casting a wider net by advertising in other publications was appropriate.
“I’m just suggesting there may be people that hear about (the openings) and say, ‘I know someone in San Clemente’ … and we just have more candidates, is all,” said Knoblock. “I agree that we need to move forward with all haste.”
The council will hold interviews with prospective candidates on Nov. 17 to fill the vacancies ahead of Baade’s and Taylor’s departure dates of Nov. 30 and Dec. 2, respectively.
The council’s vote comes weeks before voters are set to decide whether both the clerk and treasurer’s offices should remain elective or appointed by the council.
On behalf of the City Council, Mayor Pro Tem Chris Duncan and Councilmember Ward authored arguments in favor of allowing the council to appoint the positions.
In the argument, they wrote that a recruitment and interview process that prioritizes qualifications and experience would mean someone qualified would be chosen to take on the role, rather than someone who ran a successful political campaign.
The arguments noted that at least two-thirds of California cities appoint candidates to the two offices. It also stated that the clerk position had especially grown more complex, could not be deemed ceremonial, or affected by political motivations.
“Once hired, an appointed city clerk can be held accountable to perform to the same high standards established for other executive staff,” the argument stated, adding: “San Clemente residents deserve impartial, exemplary service by a full-time, qualified City Clerk who is neutral on all issues.”
Editor’s Note: This story has been updated from its original posting on Monday afternoon, Oct. 17, to reflect the council’s vote on Tuesday night, Oct. 18.
C. Jayden Smith
C. Jayden Smith graduated from Dana Hills High in 2018 before pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in digital and broadcast journalism from the University of North Texas. After graduating in December 2020, he reported for the Salina Journal in Salina, Kansas. Jayden loves college football and bothering his black lab named Shadow.