RIVERBANK -- For the second time this year, the City of Action is on the hunt for a new mayor. Mayor David I. White is resigning, according to a letter City Manager Rich Holmer read on White's behalf at Monday night's City Council meeting.
White, who's on vacation, wasn't at the meeting.
Some members of the audience greeted the news with grumbles and by shaking their heads.
White said in a phone interview after the meeting that he's leaving Riverbank for a job in San Diego. He'll manage information systems at Optum Health, a behavioral health company.
White said he was recruited for the position "out of the blue." He said he felt he couldn't turn down the job, which is a promotion, and the chance to live in San Diego, where he and his wife had planned to retire.
White will retire from his job in information technology for Stanislaus County. The May 26 council meeting will be his last. He starts his new job May 29.
"It was an offer that was impossible to turn down, but I felt bad because of all the city has gone through," said White.
White's resignation brings fresh turmoil to a city that's struggling through a tumultuous period. Then-Mayor Chris Crifasi stepped down in January, just five weeks into a four-year term. Filling his seat prompted heated debate. Some residents wanted ex-Councilwoman Virginia Madueño, who lost the election to Crifasi, appointed mayor. The council chose White.
Meanwhile, a group called Riverbank Citizens for Fair Change is mounting a recall effort against councilmembers Dave White and Jesse James White, grandfather and grandson. They are not related to David I. White. The group could start collecting signatures later this month in support of a recall election.
White said in the letter that he's "sorry" the city must find a new mayor, and that the decision to leave was "agonizing."
The council has 30 days from White's departure to decide how to fill his seat. The council can appoint a councilmember, appoint a member of the public or hold an election.
Holmer said he recommends that the city hold an election -- a suggestion that was greeted by applause from Monday's audience.
David I. White said an election was probably the least divisive way to find a new mayor. "(It would) calm all the rumor mills and the accusations of backdoor deal making that would go on," said White. "We've had enough drama; let's just do what we need to do."
If the city piggybacked on the November general election, it would cost about $10,000. A special election would cost about $30,000, said Holmer.
At Monday's meeting, Councilman Danny Fielder called David I. White a "dedicated guy." "Yeah, but he left us," called out a member of the audience.
The search for White's replacement could renew the debate that simmered after Crifasi's departure. When White, 53, was appointed mayor, he pledged to unite the city, saying that he was learning Spanish to communicate better with Riverbank's La-tino population, now 52 percent of the city.
"My hope is that the person who replaces me will continue to move forward the idea of moving the city together and not tearing it apart," said White.
Bee staff writer Leslie Albrecht can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org