For the vast majority of San Mateo’s 166-year existence, the city government has had a unique system of electing mayor: the most senior councilmember is chosen as mayor. But this election season, two new councilmembers are blocking the nomination of their co-member who would have been selected this time, Councilwoman Amourence Lee.

As KPIX reports, such a break with this longstanding protocol hasn’t happened in the history of San Mateo, the largest city on the peninsula and the eponymous San Mateo County, according to KPIX. San Mateo’s City Charter states that city council members select a mayor and a vice mayor, a rotation mayor system similar to most jurisdictions on the Peninsula, according to the San Mateo Daily Journal. However, the council only has four members at the moment, after former member Diane Papan moved on to the California State Legislature.

The decision of two current members, Lisa Diaz Nash and Robert Newsom, deadlocked the approval process, leaving San Mateo with no formal leadership. A city council meeting last Monday ran for seven hours until three in the morning, KPIX reported, at which point the Council decided to delay the vote to Dec. 7.

The city initiated the process to select a new member to the vacant seat as early as Dec. 12.

According to KPIX, Nash doesn’t believe the nomination block is personal. "No (beef between us), I mean Councilmember Lee and I've worked together before," Nash said to KPIX.  "She supports many of the same issues that I support. And she is a very capable woman … Once we select that fifth councilmember, then we can turn to have all five of them to select the mayor and deputy mayor.  And at that point, I look forward to proudly voting for Councilmember Lee as our next mayor."

The San Mateo Daily Journal reported that the two breaking members want to ensure that a fifth person was on the city council, as with only four people, the mayor would also have such tie-breaking decision.

Still, the city council meeting apparently took a contentious tone, as the election of Lee was supposed to be largely ceremonial.

An announcement on the San Mateo city government website notes that, "There is a vacancy for a 2-year, at-large Council seat. The City Council Vacancy application period has closed. View the list of applicants. Applications from those who have applied will be posted as part of the agenda for the next meeting."

Image courtesy of San Mateo Government.