Loomis asks why after mayor resigns

The Loomis Town Council finds itself looking for a replacement member after the resignation of Mayor Walt Scherer – a move that left some stunned and bewildered.

Scherer, who has served more than two decades on the council, surprised fellow members with talk of stepping away at an August meeting. He delivered his actual resignation Oct. 8 shortly after his return from a Christian pilgrimage across Spain.

He said he now wants to focus his attention on the city’s Christmas festivities, which has been called a “holiday” event and has been held on public property in recent years. Scherer said he previously felt conflicted about promoting Christmas as a public official.

“As I walked across the Christian pilgrimage, I weighed what mattered most,” he said. “(As an elected official) you want to respect the constitutionality of the separation of church and state you get torn between (respect for the Constitution and his faith).”

Scherer stepped aside little over a year before he faced re-election in November 2014.

“It was time to sit down and make room for someone else,” Scherer said in a phone interview. He said the more than 500-mile walk helped him finalize his decision to walk away.

But Councilwoman Sandra Calvert questioned whether religious illumination led to Scherer’s resignation.

Scherer had been caught in a political pickle after his planning commission appointee, Janet Thew, questioned whether Loomis Councilman Dave Wheeler could serve on the council and as the area’s fire chief. Thew and activist Bill Branch, a longtime friend of Scherer, said that represented a conflict of interest and asked the state attorney general to weigh in.

Calvert said Wheeler’s supporters had begun to talk about recalling Scherer.

Scherer subsequently asked Thew to resign her planning commission post, and she refused. Scherer then proposed changing council rules so he could dismiss Thew, and that effort failed as well.

Calvert also noted that Scherer offered a different reason for resigning – to help the elderly – when he first broached the subject from the council dais in August.

The council will accept applications to serve on the Town Council until the close of business Nov. 1. After a Nov. 7 special council meeting to interview candidates, a new board-appointed replacement will be seated Nov. 12.

As the top vote-getter in the last election, Vice Mayor Wheeler was scheduled to take over as mayor in December, but council rules require a one-year incubation period before a member can assume the largely ceremonial post. As a result, Councilman Miguel Ucovich was selected as the interim mayor until Wheeler takes over.

Meanwhile, the effort challenging Wheeler’s right to serve in both roles continues to move forward. Last week, a Sacramento law firm filed paperwork with the state attorney general’s office seeking the authority to file a “quo warranto” lawsuit on behalf of Branch and Thew. It’s unclear how long the attorney general’s office will look at the issue before making a decision.