AURORA | Lesson number one as an elected official: “Move along.” Those were Mayor Steve Hogan’s first words to the newly-elected Aurora City Council members as they finished up selfies and took their seats on the dais for the first time.
The four new council members — Crystal Murillo, David Gruber, Allison Hiltz and Nicole Johnston — joined returning member Marsha Berzins and the rest of council Monday evening after the city clerk read the official election results, which had only just last week concluded after a recount that Gruber won one of two at-large seats.
The recount was called between Gruber, a former Air Force colonel, and fellow at-large candidate Tom Tobiassen because the race was so close. Just 45 votes ended up separating the two. Hiltz won the other at-large seat with the most votes in that race. Murillo beat out Ward I incumbent Sally Mounier, who had served on council for five years. Johnston beat out four other candidates for the Ward II seat. And Berzins held her seat in a race otherwise occupied by more progressive candidates.
Hiltz, Johnston and Murillo are all self-described progressive candidates who graduated from Emerge, a program that teaches women Democrats how to run a campaign for office. Upon being sworn in, the three huddled in a group hug in celebration.
Former members offered their congratulations upon being read a proclamation by Hogan at the beginning of the meeting.
“It’s going to be drinking out of a firehose for the first six months,” outgoing Councilwoman Barb Cleland told the new members, adding that it’s also one of the most rewarding experiences.
Cleland is the longest-serving councilperson with 28 years of service and chose not to run for another term.
Between Cleland and the other three council members leaving — Sally Mounier, Brad Pierce and Renie Peterson — there was a combined 58 years of Aurora city government experience.
“It just makes the dynamic so much different,” said councilman Bob Roth. “So welcome aboard, and buckle up.”
Berzins was appointed mayor pro tem by the city council for one year and will serve as the mayor when Hogan is absent from meetings. Berzins’ first duty will be to assign council members to committees.
Beyond voting for a mayor pro tem, the city council took on a lighter than usual agenda, approving contracts and approving two resolutions related to the GoWild Northeast Metro Coalition Inspire Implementation Grant Initiative.
The new council must search for an appoint a new city manager, a powerful position that by design or default dictates the direction of the city’s government.