By Rene Ray De La Cruz, Staff Writer
Posted May 26, 2018 at 8:35 AM

HESPERIA — As the community continues to mourn the loss of Mayor Russ Blewett, the city is working through the difficult task of moving forward without him.

With Hesperia Mayor Pro Tem Bill Holland at the helm, Council members Paul Russ, Rebekah Swanson and Larry Bird will govern the city for now without their veteran leader of nearly eight years.

“The city is very much grieving the loss of Mayor Blewett,” city spokeswoman Rachel Molina told the Daily Press. “In the coming weeks, there will be discussions on how we will move forward in his absence.”

The 74-year old Blewett died unexpectedly Wednesday morning surrounded by his family at Desert Valley Hospital in Victorville, where he was recovering from a surgical procedure he’d undergone in December.

“Over the last eight years, this is probably the most difficult year that I’ve experienced on the Council,” Holland said. “In the midst of grieving the loss of Russ, we still need to be about the business of running the city and that’s been a challenge for all of us.”

Councilman Paul Russ said “you can feel the sadness and grief in the air” at City Hall, a place where the late-mayor spent many hours discussing city business and getting to know the staff.

“Russ was well-liked at the city and in the community,” Paul Russ said. “He loved people and spoke to everyone he met no matter what your political view, gender, race, religion or opinion.”

During his time in the hospital, Blewett made it his business to meet everyone who worked on the floor and ask them how he could help them.

“He spoke to everyone and his main goal was to help people,” Paul Russ said. “This is why there’s a huge hole left in the hearts of so many people.”

During the June 5 meeting, the Council plans to pay homage to Blewett by leaving the center seat of the dais vacant and in the “missing man formation,” Holland said.

“I asked the city clerk that we’d like to honor our late mayor by keeping his center seat open,” Holland said. “I asked for Larry Bird and I to be seated on the right of the dais and Paul and Rebekah to be seated on the other side.”

After the June 5 meeting, the Council will discuss whether to operate with four Council members and wait until the November election to fill the open seat, or appoint a fifth Councilperson until the election.

“I think part of that discussion should be to appoint someone from Russ’ district to fill the vacant seat for the last five months,” said Holland, who believes the Council could continue with four members, but is geared for five in order to fairly represent the taxpayers of Hesperia.

“I’ve covered for the mayor on the dais and have represented him in public since December — that’s the role of the mayor pro tem,” Holland said. “But who covers for me when I can’t be there? That’s another reason we need five on the Council.”

The High Desert has seen local councils conduct business for months at a time with only four members, such as the city of Adelant, where Mayor Pro Tem Jermaine Wright was placed into custody in November on federal bribery and attempted arson charges.

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