Carson Council Selects New City Clerk

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CARSON — The Carson City Council has named Donesia Gause as the new city clerk, replacing longtime City Clerk Helen Kawagoe, who left office in December for health reasons.

Gause, an analyst in the Long Beach City Clerk’s Office, was appointed by a vote of 3-0 at a Feb. 28 City Council special meeting, over three others who were also on the council’s short list of candidates. Voting were Mayor Pro Tem Julie Ruiz-Raber, Councilmember Lula Davis-Holmes and Councilmember Mike Gipson. Mayor Jim Dear and Councilmember Elito Santarina were not present.

The position has been vacant since Jan. 1 following Kawagoe’s retirement and resignation at the end of 2011 after serving as city clerk for 37 years. Under the Government Code, the City Council must either appoint an individual to the position or call a special election within 60 days after the position has been rendered vacant. The 60-day period elapsed at midnight Feb. 29.

On Jan. 17, the City Council unanimously voted to appoint a city clerk as the means to fill the vacancy in lieu of a potentially expensive special election. It also directed staff to invite qualified residents to apply for the vacant full-time position, which pays a salary of $115,956 plus benefits.

Donesia Gause

Ten individuals submitted an application for the position, but only six attended the initial screening process held as part of the City Council meeting on Feb. 21. The council narrowed the list down to four — Wanda Higaki, Kawagoe’s deputy for over 30 years; former Carson Mayor and Councilmember Vera Robles DeWitt; Quiana Williams, an aide to Assemblymember Warren Furutani; and Gause.

Gause is a certified municipal clerk who worked as deputy city clerk for the City of Compton prior to joining the City of Long Beach in 2003. The City Council interviewed all four finalists at length and in the end, selected Gause.

Gause, who was sworn into office by City Attorney William Wynder immediately after the vote, will serve the remainder of Kawagoe’s four-year term, which began in March 2011, and must run for re-election in March 2015 if she chooses to continue to serve.

Statement from Kawagoe

During the Feb. 21 meeting, a statement from Kawagoe was read by her stepdaughter, Sheryl Miyamoto:

“I am confident that you will find Ms. Higaki to be the ideal candidate because she possesses exceptional qualifications, outstanding work ethics, and the necessary skills and abilities for the position of city clerk. Ms. Higaki has been my loyal chief deputy for over 31 years, and I know that she is worthy of the public’s trust because of her honesty, integrity and commitment to the City of Carson. This is evident in her many years of dedicated employment along with the volunteer hours that she has spent in the City of Carson.

“Moreover, during my absence, Ms. Higaki has managed the day-to-day operations of the City Clerk’s Office and has demonstrated that she possesses the successful combination of skills and abilities and the right fit in the office to serve the people of Carson.”

Wanda Higaki

Also speaking in favor of Higaki were Tommy Fa’avae of the Environmental Commission, Kanji Sahara, Janice Schaefer of the Planning Commission, Raul Murga of the Imperial Carson Mobile Estates Homeowners Association, and Harold Williams, former councilmember.

Higaki’s supporters, including the mayor, had been lobbying to have her appointed without seeking other applicants.

Higaki herself told the council, “Thank you for your confidence in allowing me to take charge of the operations of the City Clerk’s Office since last September … I am proud of the working relationships that I have fostered with the City Council, city manager, city attorney, management, city staff, outside agencies and the positive rapport that I’ve established with our Carson community …

“I also acknowledge and thank retired City Clerk Kawagoe for her contributions to the city clerk profession and the City of Carson. With her encouragement I conceptualized, authored and coordinated the implementation of accomplishments such as the city clerk’s web page, the city clerk’s e-board, the availability of a personal computer on the city clerk’s counter to allow free access to the Carson Municipal Code, along with a new application that flags amendments not yet codified …

“I have an exciting action plan … I think that my combination of working knowledge of the operations of the City Clerk’s Office and my experience in preparing the city clerk’s departmental budget will ensure its success … I will continue to conduct the operations of the City Clerk’s Office in a professional manner with ethics and neutrality, handle sensitive issues with discretion, and respect those whom I will serve.”

Gause, a resident of Carson, said, “I’ve known Helen since I was 24 years old. She recommended me for my first position. I value what she has done.”

DeWitt, a resident of Carson for over 48 years, emphasized her experience as mayor and councilmember for a combined total of 10 years, a business owner for 40 years, a homeowner and a commercial property owner.

Williams introduced herself as a 28-year, third-generation resident of Carson who is currently working as Furutani’s field representative in that city.

In addition to the four finalists, the council heard from Angel Garcia, a retired Federal Reserve employee, and Nora Momoli, who was a grants and contract analyst for UCLA.

Video of the Feb. 21 meeting is available on the city’s website at http://ci.carson.ca.us/content/videoarchive.asp, but no video of the Feb. 28 meeting has been posted.

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