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When Gilda Cordova decided to apply for an appointment on the Lompoc City Council, she said she was motivated in large part to further serve her community and provide a voice for people within that community who haven't traditionally been heard.

On Tuesday night, the mayor and sitting members of the city council gave her the opportunity to do just that.

Cordova, who works as a hotel operator and also serves on the Lompoc Economic Development Committee and the Lompoc Family YMCA board of directors, was chosen from a pool of 10 applicants to fill out the final two years of the council seat that was vacated when Jenelle Osborne became mayor. Almost immediately after the voting results were revealed, Cordova was sworn-in to office and took her seat at the dais to conclude the two-hour meeting.

“I was very surprised,” Cordova said of her selection, shortly after the meeting ended. “I think we had a lot of great candidates and I wasn’t expecting to be selected. I was very shocked.”

Cordova’s appointment provided a quick ending to a process that had the potential to be a lot more complicated than it turned out to be.

The council had decided at its Dec. 19 meeting to utilize a ranked-voting system to evaluate the applicant pool and then potentially have the top vote-getters move on to a runoff. Potential tweaks to that process were discussed for the first 30 minutes of Tuesday’s special meeting, as well as what to do in case of ties.

In the end, however, Cordova was declared the winner after the first round of voting.

With Osborne and Councilmen Jim Mosby, Victor Vega and Dirk Starbuck ranking each of the candidates on a 1-10 scale, Cordova was given the highest score of 10 on three of the four ballots. Starbuck, who was the lone person to not rank Cordova at the top, had her in second place with 9 points.

The next closest vote-getters among the applicants were Stephen Bridge and Darrell Tullis, both of whom finished with 31 total points to Cordova’s 39.

Cordova and Tullis were the clear favorites among the 17 members of the community who offered public comment at Tuesday’s meeting, which drew an overflow audience that extended into the main lobby of City Hall. Of those speakers, seven publicly advocated for Cordova, while five voiced support for Tullis. That includes one woman who said she supported the appointment of either Cordova or Tullis.

Cordova said afterward that she was caught off-guard by the public support she received. She said a few people told her they’d go speak on her behalf, but “I didn’t realize that I would have more people that would come out and voice support; people I didn’t know and people that I met for the first time today.”

Some of that support for Cordova came from people within the Hispanic community, which makes up the majority of the overall Lompoc population.

Cordova noted in her application that she felt her background as a Hispanic woman would give her a unique perspective on issues facing the city, and she reinforced that notion after wrapping up her first meeting Tuesday from the city council dais.

“I am thrilled to bring that voice,” she said. “I think that with Lompoc being majority minority, I think that there’s a great opportunity to represent the minority, as well as women, as well as Hispanic residents and give them a voice and give them an opinion and be able to represent that community. I’m thrilled with that; that is my greatest joy.”

In addition to Cordova, Tullis and Bridge, the other applicants who sought the seat were: Edwin Braxton, Robert Cuthbert, Robert Dunlap, Thomas Fair, DeWayne Holmdahl, Sasha Keller and Nikolai Nikolenko.

Each applicant was given three minutes to make his or her case to the council, and most used up all of that time. The only applicant who did not attend the meeting was Fair.

The applicant for the seat didn’t need to come from any particular district within the city. But, because the seat will be limited to District 1 residents in the 2020 election, if the selected appointee did not reside in that particular district, he or she wouldn’t be able to run for re-election.

Cordova said Tuesday that the district restriction likely won’t apply to her since she currently lives in District 1. She said she wasn’t sure yet if she’d seek to wage an electoral campaign in 2020.

“I think that would be the expectation, but I haven’t fully decided yet,” she said, moments after greeting supporters who congratulated her on her appointment. “I guess we’ll see how these next two years go, and if I feel that I’m making the positive impact the community expects to see, why not? If not, I have no problem letting someone else come in and do the work. But I hope to be doing that positive impact.”

The next regular meeting of the Lompoc City Council is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 15.

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Willis Jacobson covers the city of Lompoc for Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Follow him on Twitter @WJacobsonLR.

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