The American Canyon City Council on Tuesday officially changed its membership for the first time in four years, saying goodbye to longtime incumbent Joan Bennett and hello to newcomer Mariam Aboudamous.
The November election resulted in Aboudamous, 30, not only winning a seat on the council, but receiving more votes than the other three candidates, including incumbents Bennett and Kenneth Leary.
Leary finished second, securing his first reelection win since joining the council in 2012.
The final, certified election results released on Tuesday showed Aboudamous with 3,095 votes, Leary with 2,725 votes, Bennett 2,623 votes, and Tony Heuschel 2,503.
Only the top two finishers won seats. That left Bennett, who placed third, unable to return for her fifth term as a council member.
The council on Tuesday night adopted a proclamation honoring Bennett for her years of service to the city. Aboudamous also took the oath of office to begin serving on the council.
“We, the City Council of the City of American Canyon,” the proclamation read, “on behalf of the Community, express our extreme gratitude to Joan Bennett for her devotion to so many aspects of our lives during her years of service.”
Bennett was part of the city’s very first council following incorporation in 1992, serving one term. In 1995, she became a member of the Napa Valley College Board of Trustees, a position she held for 11 years.
She was elected again to the city council in 2006, serving continuously until this month.
The proclamation described Bennett as “a tireless advocate for the residents of American Canyon, and particularly low-income families, seniors, or residents with special needs.”
City Manager Dana Shigley said the changing of the guard from Bennett to Aboudamous left her feeling “conflicted.”
“On the one hand, I have worked with Joan for five years now and have come to love and respect her tremendous commitment to American Canyon, and particularly our residents most in need,” Shigley wrote in her weekly “Friday Update” emailed to the community last week. “I will miss her on the Council.”
“But,” she added, “I am also excited about Mariam joining the team, along with new perspectives and ideas.”
When asked if she was surprised to come in first in the voting, Aboudamous expressed her own conflicting sentiments about the results.
“Am I surprised? Yes and no,” said Aboudamous last Friday before the city’s annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony.
“Yes because I ran against two incumbents, and it wasn’t expected that anyone would beat an incumbent,” she said. “But no because I have very deep ties in this community and have volunteered here and worked here for many, many years. I’ve been here since I was 2. I’ve shown what I’m capable of.”
After being sworn in and taking her place on the council, Aboudamous said she was “truly honored that the residents of American Canyon have elected me to help lead this community.”
“I don’t take my new responsibilities lightly,” she said.
Aboudamous also thanked Bennett for her “many years of dedication to the community.”
Bennett’s departure from the council provoked emotional and thoughtful moments before the packed meeting.
Prior to reading the proclamation to his longtime colleague, Mayor Leon Garcia acknowledged the difficulty he might have saying goodbye to Bennett, with whom he has served on the council for 10 years.
“I might need a hanky,” said Garcia to the audience while standing next to Bennett.
Bennett, too, was emotional during her last speech in the council chambers.
“This is really difficult for me,” she said in her opening remarks.
Bennett mentioned that since 1965 she has lived in American Canyon, a community she still intends to support and remain active in after leaving City Hall.
“I’m not going off into the sunset, or going to watch TV all day,” said Bennett. “I love American Canyon, I’m proud of what we’re doing here,” she added, “Thank you very much, I love you all.”