Former Mayor Steven Huang praised his successor, Gretchen Shepherd Romey, when introducing her at last Thursday’s meeting of the Rotary Club of San Marino, but he couldn’t resist one small, yet well-timed dig.
“A graduate of Michigan State University,” Huang said as he concluded his comments.
“The University of Michigan,” Shepherd Romey retorted from the head table, a statement that elicited a blast of laughter from those in attendance at San Marino Community Church.
“Just kidding,” said Huang, sheepishly, as he invited the fourth female mayor in the city’s history to the podium.
The quip seemed to set the perfect tone for Shepherd Romey’s State of the City address. She began by mentioning her 24-year residency in the city and her long and distinguished association with the Hill Harbison House and Girl Scouts of America.
“Who knew I would be here,” she said.
The mayor, who was elected to the San Marino City Council in 2017, provided a comprehensive assessment of the community, including a priority initiatives survey, sweeping improvements to the city’s website, the hiring of a new finance director, a complete backup of the city’s computer systems and a plan to deal with ransomware, illegal software that can restrict access to a computer operating system and is often used to elicit a ransom.
“We are working on that,” said Shepherd Romey. “That has completely crippled some cities and has been more prevalent on the East Coast. But we are working to get ahead of the problem.”
She also touted the beginning of a complete rebuilding of the rose arbor in Lacy Park, the hiring of six new officers by the San Marino Police Department and the consideration of a business watch program, which would allow business owners to communicate with each other regarding vacant commercial spaces and homes.
Shepherd Romey also mentioned an ongoing study regarding the San Marino Community Services and Recreation Department.
She then listed some of her goals, which include improved traffic and pedestrian safety, increased enforcement and traffic control, reducing crime and burglaries through greater oversight of vacant residential and commercial properties, protecting San Marino’s unique “urban forest,” completing the city’s first historic resources survey and ensuring neighborhood compatibility of construction projects through code enforcement and “a thorough design review process.”
“That is our overarching goal,” said Shepherd Romey. “To make San Marino one of the best places to live.”
A longtime civic volunteer before deciding to run for public office, Shepherd Romey said her goal is to “make San Marino better.”
“I believe strongly that local government is the most important type of government because it directly benefits residents,” she said. “I want San Marino to have a responsive government that handles problems and encourages more engagement with the community.”
During the question-and-answer segment of the meeting, Shepherd Romey was asked about salaries earned by city employees.
“We have a very demanding group of residents here,” she said. “We did a comparison but we compared our salaries to cities that are similar in size and scope to San Marino. There is a cost and there is a loss when people work here a couple years and then go elsewhere. We want people to come here and stay.”
She also said that the city is researching an economic development plan for the Mission Street and Huntington Drive commercial zones. She also said the city is updating one ordinance and creating another to help with vacant properties.
Shepherd Romey said her goal was to “jump in immediately” when appointed mayor in the beginning of December, with a 100-day plan to “make positive, impactful decisions and get things accomplished.’
Shepherd Romey was elected along with Susan Jakubowski and Ken Ude in November 2017. In an effort to align with the state’s new election guidelines, the trio will receive five-year terms and will not stand for election again until November 2022.
“I am so thankful for Rotary’s support,’ she concluded. “Please vote!”