Wendy Leung, Staff Writer
Created: 12/02/2010 04:58:32 PM PST

RANCHO CUCAMONGA – A councilman who served 12 years in the 1980s and 1990s was appointed Wednesday to fill the remaining two years of Dennis Michael’s term.

The City Council, on a 3-1 vote, named Chuck Buquet, 59, the third highest vote getter in the November municipal election, to the five-member board. Buquet will be sworn in on Dec. 15.

“The best way for me as an elected official is to look at supporting the will of voters, the will of the people,” said Michael, who was selected as mayor in the election.

Councilman Bill Alexander was the dissenting vote, backing Marc Steinorth, who was second in the mayoral race.

“I care a lot about Chuck Buquet, he’s a good man. This is not a reflection on him. … But I honestly do believe, we have an opportunity right now to look at a young man with a lot of business savvy who has demonstrated a real willingness,” Alexander said, referring to Steinorth.

Michael prematurely exited his City Council term to run for mayor, leaving a vacancy that, by state law, needed to be filled in 30 days or a special election must be held.

Nobody on the council supported the costly option of a special election. According to a San Bernardino County Registrar of Voters estimate, a special election could cost the city between $525,000 and $575,000.

The council didn’t support opening up an application process and interviewing residents who wanted the position, an option that Councilwoman Diane Williams supported in the past.

But on Wednesday, Williams said appointing a council member from a wide-open field would give the perception that the City Council was selecting a close ally.

“There would be an accusation that we chose somebody we wanted to work with rather than who the voters chose,” Williams said.

Discussions of the appointment process on Wednesday harkened back to 2002, when Williams and former Councilman Rex Gutierrez made two controversial appointments after discussing the matter at a local restaurant.

Resentment over the appointments of Don Kurth and Bob Howdyshell lingered in the community for years and drew a deep division on the council.

On Wednesday, Spagnolo said soliciting applications as opposed to picking the next highest vote getter would create animosity in the city, and Michael likened such a process to a popularity contest.

Before the City Council made a decision, Steinorth encouraged the four city leaders to consider him, citing the outcome of the November elections that placed him in second place in a field of four. Steinorth also presented a petition with about 1,700 signatures of people in the community who back him.

But some on the council, including Williams, did not support appointing a mayoral candidate to be a councilman.

“The mayor’s race is a separate race,” Williams said. “It’s a whole different ball game.”

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