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Barton appointed to vacant seat on Ripon City Council
RIPON barton
From left, Gary Barton, who was picked as the provisional appointment Tuesday to the vacant Ripon City Council seat, receives congratulations from George Saljian. The two Planning Commissioners were in a runoff during the selection process.

It was a long process Tuesday to fill the vacant seat on the Ripon City Council.

But in the end, Gary Barton edged out his fellow Ripon Planning Commissioner George Saljian for the provisional appointment that's good for one year.

"It was very humbling," Barton said of the process used at the special session consisting of interviews and questions followed by two additional rounds in order for elected leaders to finally come to a consensus.

He and Saljian were among the eight candidates vying for the post previously occupied by Tim Wheeler, who recently stepped down after moving his family to Montana.

He was elected in November 2020, beating out former Ripon Chamber of Commerce CEO / President Tamra Spade and businessman Richard Kohl. Both were also in the running for the open post.

The others were current Planning Commissioner Debra Van Essen, Sgt. Steven Verner of the Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department, Michael Ferraro (he's a nurse and union organizer at a local hospital), and F. Phillip Kruger, who is associated with the Chamber of Commerce.

Earlier, Rex Rodgers rescinded his name from the candidate pool.

In the question-and-answer process, they took on topics such as the downtown parking situation, social media, economic development, and the cut-through commuter traffic through town.

Each gave opening and closing statements.

Mayor Daniel de Graaf along with Dean Uecker, Mike Restuccia and Leo Zuber were then provided with ballots.

According to City Administrator Kevin Werner, one individual receiving three votes would be declared the winner.

That didn't happen.

Council members were called to provide an overall ranking in numerical order among the eight candidates. The lowest numbers -- in this case, Barton and Saljian -- advanced to the next round.

They were asked to define the role that council plays with city government and, as a council member, how to personally handle conflict of interest issues.

Both were familiar with the latter having shared their times on the Planning Commission when dealing with such issues.

"I would excuse myself," said Barton, who pointed out that his family owns property adjacent to the city and could present that possibility in the future.

Saljian did just that in his role as a builder. He managed the work on Ripon Christian Preschool, bowing out when that project came before the Planning Commission.

Saljian, who has served with Barton for the past six years on the Planning Commission, congratulated the soon-to-be newest council member.

"I'm happy for him. (Gary) will do a fantastic job," he said.

Barton will be administered the oath of office at next week's council meeting.

"It was an honor to be among these outstanding candidates. I'm grateful for the decision," he said.