On Thursday evening, the Cerritos City Council reorganized its positions with Carol K. Chen finishing her term as mayor and Jim Edwards stepping in as the city's new leader -- a year-long role that he says will also serve as his final farewell on the council.
More than 100 community members gathered in the council chambers, with many lining the walls to show their appreciation for Chen's work over the past year.
In attendance were state, county, district and local officials, including board members with the and Cerritos College, and elected officials from the cities of Artesia, Lakewood, Bellflower, Norwalk, Downey, La Palma and Hawaiian Gardens. Members of the , L.A. County Fire Station and , the Cerritos and Artesia Chambers of Commerce, Blindstart and local businesses were also present to show their appreciation for the first-time mayor through plaques, certificates, flowers, gifts and kind words.
Before the presentation of gifts, the audience watched a slideshow of photos and video snippets documenting Chen's year of service. Though the room was masked with darkness during the reflective piece, Chen appeared visibly moved as she watched highlights of her term as mayor.
"I hope my representation of the city has made you proud," Chen said humbly to those in attendance.
After a year in which Cerritos faced some of its toughest economic challenges, the mother of two was applauded for her strength and determination in helping guide the city through the storm.
"You're always a lady, and I think that is important in public life," Vice Mayor of Lakewood Diane Dubois said to Chen.
Hawaiian Gardens Mayor Mike Gomez referred to Chen as "vivacious" and "outgoing," adding that his wife said Chen "sure loves that job as mayor" referring to her always happy and gracious attitude.
Others praised her leadership and steadfast poise among a council of four other men.
"She's classy," Bellflower Mayor Scott A. Larson said. "She is a lady of class."
One of the most memorable moments of the night occurred when Blind Start America's Brian Tom -- who lost his vision to Glaucoma in his early 20s -- touched on his experience of working alongside Chen on team Blind Start during the last August. He thanked her for her sincere kindness with words by Mark Twain:
"Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see," he said, drawing approval and applause from the room.
With her husband Tony and daughter Stephanie looking on, Chen said she was looking forward to a less demanding schedule after a busy year, but noted that she was eager and ready to help the city conquer the challenges ahead, namely with state budget cuts and the elimination of redevelopment funding.
"It is indeed a pleasure to continue serving my community," Chen said. "I hope to continue as a council member and be part of a unique crossroads that local government is coming to."
As the community gave thanks to Chen for a job well done, they also welcomed incoming mayor Jim Edwards, who was first elected to the Cerritos City Council in 2005 and served as mayor from 2008-2009.
"I am greatly honored to be named mayor of Cerritos once again," Edwards said. "We all love this city and we want to serve it well."
After serving the community as a city representative and educator for several decades, the longtime Cerritos resident said his current term as mayor would also mark his last hurrah.
"This will be my 8th and final year on the council and to complete this final year as mayor is truly an honor," he said. "It has been such an honor to be part of this great city."
Sitting alongside Edwards was newly selected Mayor Pro Tem Bruce Barrows, who first joined the council in April of 1994 and was re-elected in 1999. He returned to the council in 2007 and was re-elected in 2011. He served as mayor in 1997-1998, 2002-2003 and 2009-2010.