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Citrus Heights council picks new mayor, vice mayor in split 3-2 vote

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Sentinel staff report–
In an unusual split vote Thursday night Citrus Heights City Council members voted for Steve Miller and Porsche Middleton to serve one-year terms as the city’s mayor and vice mayor, respectively.

The annual nomination and ratification of council members to serve as mayor and vice mayor is typically a routine formality, without controversy. But this year, newly seated District 3 Councilman Tim Schaefer joined District 1 Councilman Bret Daniels in voting “no” on the nomination of Miller and Middleton.

Although no public discussion was made regarding the vote, Daniels told The Sentinel in a subsequent email that he was “intentionally being passed over” for a shot at mayor, noting that Miller had recently served as mayor in 2018.

Schaefer similarly alleged a “consistent movement to prevent a fair opportunity for all council members to serve as mayor” and said the council “seems to have forgotten that there are five council members, not three.”

Given an opportunity to respond, Councilwoman Jeannie Bruins, who made the motion to nominate Miller on Thursday, told The Sentinel in a brief statement that her decision was “because he is the most qualified councilmember to serve in that position during 2021.”

The position of mayor and vice mayor is largely symbolic, as Citrus Heights operates with a council-manager form of government where the mayor doesn’t wield more power than others. Council members typically rotate through the mayor and vice mayor positions, with Bruins, Miller and outgoing mayor Jeff Slowey each being selected to serve twice in the past six years.

Daniels, who was elected in 2016, has not served a term as mayor or vice mayor during that time, although he previously served as mayor when he served on the council in 2005, when he resigned while going through a divorce.

Daniels has had a rough relationship at times with his colleagues on the council, having his initial nominee for planning commission rejected by his fellow council members who refused to ratify his appointment in 2017.

He was later censured by his fellow council members in 2018 after police reports from 2008 and 2017 surfaced alleging he repeatedly pursued communication with a former high school girlfriend in a manner she called “creepy.” Daniels denied allegations of wrong doing and the Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office concluded that no criminal conduct occurred.

Miller was first appointed to the City Council to fill a vacancy in 2005 and was subsequently elected in 2006 and re-elected every four years. Middleton initially ran for City Council in 2016 and lost, but returned in 2018 to win a seat on the council.

Miller replaces Jeff Slowey as mayor, who opted to retire this year after serving 17 years on the council.

Thursday’s vote could be an indication that a more divided council will emerge from this year’s council elections.

Daniels and Schaefer previously joined forces in 2016, mutually endorsing each others campaigns for City Council that year. The two were also both outspoken critics of the Measure M sales tax, which failed this year, while the other three members of the council endorsed the measure.

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