Ryan Hagen, Staff Writer
Posted: 01/12/2011 08:20:16 PM PST

GRAND TERRACE – Gene Hays, an immigration attorney with no government experience, will be sworn in today as the fifth member of the City Council.

The council members voted 3-1 on Tuesday to select Hays after interviewing 13 applicants.

“I’m looking forward to rolling my sleeves up and getting down to business,” Hays said.

Several residents had expressed fear that the open seat, held by Walt Stanckiewitz until he was elected mayor in November, would lead to repeated 2-2 stalemates until the next election in 2012.

And at first, the council appeared to be headed down that path, as eight successive candidates were nominated, then failed either for lack of a second or in a 2-2 split with Mayor Walt Stanckiewitz and Councilman Bernardo Sandoval on one side and councilwomen LeeAnn Garcia and Darcy McNaboe on the other.

Sandoval then proposed voting again on Hays, who was originally nominated by McNaboe, and all but Garcia approved.

Garcia and Hays said afterward they were focused on the future, not the nomination.

“I look forward to working with you,” Garcia told Hays after the meeting. “I was unable to support you, as I really do not know you.”

Hays said finances were the council’s biggest challenge, exacerbated by contracts where he said the city had not protected its interests.

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