On Wednesday evening, hundreds piled into the Cerritos City Council Chambers to partake in the city's annual reorganization meeting and mayoral transition ceremony -- an evening dedicated to bidding a fond farewell to retiring Mayor Jim Edwards and welcoming re-elected councilmember Carol K. Chen and newly elected George Ray.
Bruce W. Barrows was also selected as the city's new mayor and Mark Pulido was chosen to serve as mayor pro tem.
Community Members and Dignitaries Honor Edwards
A large portion of the meeting was spent honoring outgoing mayor Jim Edwards, who is retiring after serving eight consecutive years on the city council.
Edwards first joined the council in 2005, was re-elected in 2009, and served as mayor from 2008–2009 and 2012-2013.
But his ties to the community stretch far beyond the past eight years.
His service with Cerritos began when he was appointed as a Parks and Recreation Commissioner from 1988 to 1997 and 2003 to 2005, and as a Community Safety Committee Member from 1997 to 2003.
A Cerritos resident for more than 35 years, Edwards is a retired teacher and administrator in the ABC Unified School District. He spent four years at Whitney Community Learning Center and 30 years at Gahr High School. He was also a part-time instructor at Cerritos College and served for 10 years as the Director of Cerritos College Summer Sports Camp. During his time as an educator, Edwards also coached various varsity sports including baseball, cross country, soccer, softball and track and field.
His impact as an educator was brought to light when a former Gahr student -- Dennis Arriola, current President of the Southern California Gas Company -- took a moment to honor his beloved high school mentor.
"He is always going to be Coach Edwards to me ... I've known him for 38 years now, he was my high school coach at Gahr for cross country," Arriola said. "I've been so fortunate and blessed in knowing him -- he’s been a teacher, a coach, an instructor ... you’ve taught me about courage, honesty and humility, and you've taught me to dream and take risks."
Several officials and dignitaries from throughout the region also took pause to recognize the outgoing mayor with certificates, plaques, a scrapbook highlighting his years with the city, and accolades of appreciation for his service to the community.
While Edwards and his council colleagues spent much of the year focused on guiding Cerritos through the challenges of the post-redevelopment fund era, the two-time mayor also spent the past year recovering from hip replacement surgery -- something that he refused to let slow him down in his stretch on the council.
"When I look at the size of that book," Bellflower Mayor Dan Koops said referring to the enormous scrapbook gifted to Edwards from the city, "I know he’s never missed an event."
"I knew he was suffering from hip pain, but he’s a bulldog and he was not going to let it stop him from going to an event." Koops said. "You’re an example to me and I've learned so much from what you do – you’re a classy guy in a classy city and I thank you very much."
Edwards Gives Thanks
A testament to the man that many spent the evening describing as a humble and sincere gentleman, Edwards in his final address focused solely on giving thanks to those he says makes the city sparkle.
"Thank you is not a big enough word … this is more than I can even dream, but it’s my turn to say thank you," an emotional Edwards said. "I've received so many accolades tonight, but I got to work in best city I could ever dream to be a part of."
"We have a great city because of the people you see here ... from the bottom of my heart, to the residents, the staff, thank you so much for allowing me to be a part of this great city -- I will forever be indebted to this city."
Known for his bright smile, Edwards in his final remarks ended things on a lighter note, sharing that he and newly-elected council member Ray agreed to wear t-shirts that said, "Gray Hair Rules," drawing much laughter from the crowd.
Chen, Ray Take Oath; Barrows Named Mayor
After receiving a standing ovation, Edwards stepped down from the dais and the oath of office was given to Chen and Ray -- the winners of the March 5 Cerritos Municipal Election.
, took a few moments to also give thanks.
"I’m overall overwhelmed with generosity of the people, to the residents who voted for me, I’d like to say thank you," he said. "Running for council is a hard and humbling experience but worth the effort."
The evening concluded with Barrows transitioning into his new role as mayor and Pulido named mayor pro tem.
Barrows first joined the council in April 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.
Pulido was elected to the council in March 2011. Prior to that, the longtime city resident spent several years s a member on the ABC Unified School District Board.