By Alex Dominguez
NORWALK – With the City Hall Chambers filled, Norwalk officially said farewell to Mayor Mike Mendez and Vice Mayor Cheri Kelley Tuesday evening.
Mendez and Kelley have served as part of Norwalk’s City Council for 29 and 20 years respectively, which included seven and four year-long mayoral terms.
It was a night of reflection on both councilmembers’ long tenures with the city.
“I’ve given a lot of thought about the last 20 years. First I thought about where we were in 1997. Those of you who were around remember those were pretty rough days…but we were ready to move forward. Then I thought about all the accomplishments of the various city councils that I’ve been privileged to be a part of. The most important thing that we did was to have a balanced budget, each and every one of those 20 years,” said Kelley.
“There were lots of projects…I started to make a list and after page three I gave up. And there are many more projects that are in various forms of completion as we sit here.”
“It has been such a pleasure and honor to serve this community for 29 years,” said Mendez. “…probably more important to me than anything else is all of you that live in this community and work in this community…I’ve been blessed that people have supported me along the way and I really appreciate that.”
At Tuesday’s ceremony, Kelley thanked the city managers that she had worked with during her time on council, as well as city staff, department heads, local law enforcement, and commissioners.
“All of these wonderful people is the reason why I struggled with my decision not to seek a sixth term,” said Kelley. “How do you walk away from family?”
Mendez later echoed many of these same thanks, also including the fire department, his current council member colleagues, and several former council members who were in the audience.
Both Kelley and Mendez also thanked and made presentations to their families.
Both individuals were honored and presented gifts and proclamations by several notable elected officials, including Assemblyman Ian Calderon, County Assessor Jeffrey Prang, the office of Congresswoman Linda Sanchez, the office of State Senator Tony Mendoza, the office of Assemblymember Cristina Garcia, and the office of L.A. County Supervisor Janice Hahn.
The two exiting council members were also commended by representatives of Cerritos College, Little Lake School District, Norwalk La Mirada School District, the Cities of Artesia, Downey, Lakewood, Pico Rivera, and Santa Fe Springs, the California Contract Cities Association (represented by former Councilmember Marcel Rodarte), Whittier Union High School District, the Norwalk Chamber of Commerce, and various community clubs and organizations.
Newly-elected Tony Ayala and Jennifer Perez – who will fill Mendez and Kelley’s seats – were also in attendance. They will be sworn on April 11.