Mayor Don Johnson(left) hands newly selected Mayor Ray Luna the gavel during the City of Santa Paula's reorganization meeting Monday evening. Photo by Debbie Johnson

Ray Luna selected Mayor of Santa Paula

December 07, 2001
Santa Paula News
By Peggy Kelly Santa Paula TimesRay Luna was elevated to Mayor after a plethora of speakers urged the City Council to not overlook Councilwoman Laura Flores Espinosa for the job at the Dec. 3 meeting. Ultimately, Espinosa was elected Vice Mayor.City Hall council chambers was standing-room-only for the first hour of the meeting where most speakers concentrated on themes of fairness and unity in urging that Espinosa be elected to the mostly ceremonial post.Latino Town Hall President Robert Borrego said past divisions on the council have “hurt this city dramatically; it’s been painful for all of us as I’m sure all in this room love this city very, very much,” but electing Espinosa to the post would demonstrate true healing.There is a new spirit of unity emerging in the oft times bitterly divided city, he added: “Let all the fights be history,” especially during the city’s centennial year.Speakers complimented the conduct of Luna, now in his second year of his first term in office, but said it was not only time for Espinosa to assume the post - she is nearing the end of her second term - but she has proven leadership abilities that are recognized on a countywide basis as well as beneficial to the city.“I’ve been to enough City Council meetings to know [Luna] would be a fine mayor. . .but I also think it’s fitting that everyone should have a shot,” said Ken Chapman. “There is an opportunity here,” for statesmanship as well as making the selection of mayor a “celebration for all.”Kay Wilson-Bolton said when she served on the council she had stepped aside as vice mayor to let another assume the post. “Tomorrow’s headlines,” can either reflect Luna’s actions in deferring to Espinosa or continue to address Santa Paula’s divisions, she noted.Santa Paula leaders should be complimented on the “great job, a new spirit, new programs,” and Espinosa should be named mayor to continue the progress of unity, said Jeff Novak.Although the position is honorary, the “honorary feeling would rub off on those who support her,” said Richard Vincent.The only speaker who said he supported Luna was Al Escoto, a former councilman and mayor. “How wonderful it would be to appoint a native son during our centennial year. . .Ray’s activism didn’t stop after the election; he continues to walk the streets to hear the people and their concerns to make a better community for all. He’s a hard worker promoting harmony in our city for a long time.”
In all there were 16 speakers and then City Clerk Steven Salas read the 13 letters of support for Luna, and the 25 urging Espinosa be made mayor.When nominations were called for Councilman John Procter nominated Espinosa. When it was Luna’s turn he voted no and said, “A year ago I made a statement,” noting his support of the vice mayor becoming mayor. “. . .it’s very simple, I’m trying to keep the tradition going.”The vote for Espinosa failed 3-2. When it came to voting for Luna, Espinosa cast the lone nay vote.Most of those at the meeting left the council chambers right after the vote, their earlier mood of reconciliation shifted to resentment.Luna was grim and slow to take the gavel; after he left the dais several times.After the short break, Councilmember Don Johnson nominated Procter for vice mayor, but Procter said he “respectfully” declined; he nominated Espinosa for the vice mayor’s position and she received the unanimous support of the council.During the city communications portion of the meeting, Espinosa thanked the council for their “vote of confidence” in her selection as vice mayor and her supporters. It was “humbling [to hear their comments but also filled her] with great pride and a lot of love. I’m looking forward to the upcoming year and a positive future,” and growing unity for the centennial.Luna said Espinosa and her husband Victor “have been close friends of mine for many, many years,” and the council, although at times disagreeing on issues, has worked “very well” together and will continue to do so to improve the city.

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