As the clock neared 5 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 30, dozens of community members trickled into the Mountain View Council Chambers for a meeting with just one item on the agenda: filling the council’s vacant seat.
After Sally Lieber vacated her seat late last year, the council opted to fill her position through an appointment. An initially sparse pool of applicants ended up crowded, with 10 residents submitting applications hours before the deadline.
The City Council narrowed it down to five finalists, and after one withdrew, the remaining four each got 30 minutes to answer pre-set questions about everything from quality of life to supporting small businesses on Jan. 30. After hearing from each applicant and discussing their top choices, council members ultimately appointed Emily Ann Ramos to join them at the dais.
Each council member cast votes for their top two candidates. Ramos secured votes from five out of six council members, with the exception of Lisa Matichak. Environmental Planning Commissioner Chris Clark came in a close second, snagging four votes from Council members Margaret Abe-Koga, Ellen Kamei and Lisa Matichak, and Vice Mayor Pat Showalter. Ronit Bryant got support from Mayor Alison Hicks and Matichak. John McAlister got one vote from council member Lucas Ramirez.
Ramos told the Voice the following day that she felt "an overwhelming sense of gratitude" as she heard the votes tallied in her favor.
"Last night, I felt so thankful for the people who showed up," she said. "I did not expect that level of support."
In line with her experience from serving on the Rental Housing Committee, Ramos said during her interview her top priorities if chosen include stopping the displacement of longtime Mountain View residents and developing strategies for middle-income people to afford housing in the city.
“We are in the midst of a housing crisis and Mountain View has done really incredible steps to move us forward, but the work isn’t done yet,” she told her now-fellow council members as she faced the dais Monday night.
She also supports bolstering the city’s parks and open space.
“Parks are important public spaces that are available to all people regardless of their income,” Ramos said.
Ramos said she plans to get right to work on increasing community engagement with council decisions.
"We have our strategic goals, and I'm very mindful that there isn't appetite to add to it," she said. "But what we can do is work on those strategic goals more mindfully and deeper with the community."
Mayor Hicks told the Voice the day after the appointment that she looks forward to working with Ramos on housing issues in the city.
"I think she’ll bring a deep understanding of some of the items on our council work plan, particularly making housing more affordable," Hicks said. "And she’s also eager to learn and work on other issues."
Public comment strongly favored Ramos, with more than 40 community members coming out to support her both in person and virtually.
“The timing is right for Emily Ramos,” said Bee Hanson with the Mountain View Mobile Home Alliance.
Some expressed frustration about the council choosing appointment over a special election. Li Zhang, who ran in the 2022 election but fell short of securing a council seat, said council should appoint someone who’s been voted in before, meaning a former council member.
Others said that, in lieu of a special election, the democratic choice would be the applicant whose views most closely align with former Council member Lieber. Some public commenters said that person was Ramos, while others thought it was Bryant.
Lieber told the Voice the day after the appointment that she was "very pleased" by the outcome.
"Emily is a great choice. I encouraged her to go for it and I'm really happy that she did," Lieber said. "She’s super hard working, highly intelligent and she knows Mountain View inside and out."
The former council member added that Ramos "shares my values, and her reasons for pursuing the appointment process are the right ones."
"She really wants to help people and I think she will be open to hearing from everyone, including me, which is something that pleases me very much," Lieber said.
Ramos' appointment was met with loud applause from those still present in person. She will be officially sworn in at the council’s Feb. 14 regular meeting.