There were tears and cheers at Tuesday night's City Council meeting as Modesto bid farewell to two council veterans and welcomed two new members.
"We have two fresh council members who have that deer-in-the-headlights look I remember so well from eight years ago," outgoing council member Janice Keating joked during her last moments on the dais. Minutes later, newly elected members Dave Geer and Joe Muratore slid into Keating's and Will O'Bryant's seats.
Tuesday's meeting wasn't just a changing of the guard. It marked a new chapter for Modesto. The November election was the first time voters chose council members to represent neighborhood districts instead of citywide seats.
Some worry that districts could divide the council into competing factions, but the theme of Tuesday's meeting was the bond council members sometimes form, as Keating and O'Bryant did during their eight years serving side by side.
Keating announced Tuesday that she's running for the state Assembly. During her tenure on the council, she earned a reputation for keeping a watchful eye on city budgets, often challenging city staff with tough questions.
On Tuesday she showed a more tender side. Keating teared up as she thanked O'Bryant, whom she called her "closest colleague and true friend." Keating thanked Mayor Jim Ridenour for being "a stabilizing force" on the council who encouraged her to spread her wings. She named hiring City Manager Greg Nyhoff, fixing city streets without raising taxes and "getting tough" on mobile home park owners as some of the city's biggest accomplishments during her time on the council.
O'Bryant, who is battling cancer, wasn't able to attend Tuesday's meeting. Ridenour read a statement on his behalf. O'Bryant urged citizens to get more involved by attending meetings, asking questions and joining committees. He called Keating his partner on the council who "set him straight a few times with sound advice."
On the council, O'Bryant was a strong advocate for public safety, and Tuesday was no exception. He ended his statement with a special plea for the new council to remember cops, firefighters and senior citizens. O'Bryant's last line — "I love Modesto" — drew hearty applause.
With that, City Clerk Stephanie Lopez swore in returning Councilwoman Kristin Olsen and new members Geer and Muratore as family and friends snapped photos. Then the crowd retired to a reception at McHenry Mansion.