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June 19, 2012 > History: Fremont Mayors Made History

History: Fremont Mayors Made History

The voters of the Washington High School District area (minus the present towns of Newark and Union City) voted to form the new city of Fremont in January 1956. They also elected the first five council members but did not vote on a mayor, Fremont chose to be a General Law City where the council members elected the mayor. This practice is still in effect in many cities, including Emeryville, Albany, and Piedmont in Alameda County.

Preliminary vote counting indicated that Jack Stevenson had the most votes and he was chosen to be mayor. However, when all the absentee ballots were counted, it was a tie between Jack Stevenson and Bruce Michael. Council members felt they could not replace the man they had named mayor, so Stevenson became mayor and Michael, Vice Mayor. Both were defeated in the 1958 election that ended the "spirit of unanimity and cooperation", Fremont's "honeymoon" period. Stevenson was elected to council again in 1960 and was again chosen to be mayor. Michael continued to be an important person in Fremont's development, but he no longer carried the political impact of that first council, though he was sometimes pronounced "Mayor Pro Tempore."

Michael Overacker was an important representative of the farming community and a member of that first council. Wally Pond recalled that he had to convince Michael to vote for himself so the council could select a mayor. After some confusing voting, Overacker was selected to be Fremont's second mayor.

Carl Flegal served on the Planning Commission in 1958 and also was deeply involved in developing the General Plan for the City. He recalled that "it took a lot of conviction and courage by the Planning Commission and the City Council to make it work." Carl replaced Mrs. Winifred Bendel who was voted out of office, apparently because she was the only available target. He was reelected in 1962 and chosen mayor.

Jack Parry was the leader of the Planning Commission in the early days and was elected to the Council in 1960. He was chosen mayor in 1962.

Don Dillon served on the City Council for 16 years and was chosen to be mayor from 1963 to 1967 and 1974 to 1975. Dillon, Gene Rhodes and Geoffrey Steel led the council to become a stabler unit with a more consistent set of policies. Steel was appointed to the council in 1962 where he served a total of 13 years and was mayor for two years. He noted that Fremont is the attractive city it is today because of attention to good planning. Rhodes served on the Council for 16 years and was the mayor for several years. He became the first directly elected mayor in 1978.

Geoffey Steel looked back at the years of service by Dillon, Rhodes, Jack Pimentel, Hugh Block, Bill van Doorn, Art Lampert and himself with pride of accomplishment for the City Hall, the police building and Central Park.

Bill van Doorn joined the Council in 1964 and was chosen mayor in 1971. He was instrumental in acquiring land for Central Park.

Jack Pimentel was a council member from 1970 to 1974 and mayor from 1972 to 1974. He noted that the Council was the most harmonious to date. His "strongest achievement was bringing government closer to the people."

Leon Mezzetti ran on a pro growth slate in 1974, won election to the City
Council and was elected mayor from 1980 to 1985.

In a rematch of the 1980 election, Morrison defeated Mezzetti to become mayor in 1985. Morrison had been one of the members of the Committee to Preserve the Hills which ran the campaign for the successful 1981 initiative to protect the Fremont hills. He was joined on the council by John Baker and John Dutra, a much less pro growth council than the last one.

In 1989, Bill Ball unseated Morrison and served for five years. At that election, Baker was defeated and replaced by Alane Loisel. Loisel, Ball and Gary Mello voted to fill the council vacancy by appointing Kurt Roessler. Mello, Loisel, and Roessler voted to fire Kent McClain, the city manager, and another recall was initiated (sound familiar?). Roessler did not run for election to his appointed seat and Loisel and Mello were recalled from office in 1992. Judy Zlatnik and Bob Wasserman were elected to fill the two vacant seats in June of 1992.

Ball served until 1994, when Morrison defeated him in the election. Morrison served for the next ten years. In the 1996 election, the voters imposed a two consecutive term limit on council members, and mayor and also, at the same election, changed the term of office for the mayor from two years to four. Morrison was termed out of office in 2004.

Bob Wasserman, who had been Fremont's Chief of Police from 1976 to 1991 and had served on the city council since 1992, was elected mayor in 2004. He served until his untimely death on December 29, 2011. A 25 foot tall sculpture in The Block at Pacific Commons was recently dedicated to him.

After a competitive process, the city council chose Gus Morrison to complete Wasserman's term, which ends in December 2012. We will then have a new mayor and the cycle will resume.

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