Mayor Fred Jung

Former councilman Fred Jung was chosen as mayor of Fullerton on Dec. 7. (City of Fullerton)

The Fullerton City Council voted, 3-2, to name councilman Fred Jung as the new mayor on Tuesday evening. Jung will replace mayor Bruce Whitaker, who has served as the city’s mayor since 2013.

Jung spoke briefly before the council vote and said, “There should always be a profound reverence for this office, and I have that for my fellow council members here.”

Councilman Jesus Silva voted against the appointment of Jung but said, “only no, to keep the rotation going, but he would do a great job if he gets elected.”

Councilman Ahmad Zahra was the only other council member who opposed the appointment while Dunlap, Whitaker and Jung voted for it.

Silva nominated himself for mayor pro tem, but lost with a 2-3 vote among the council members. Zahra and Silva voted in favor, while Jung, Dunlap and Whitaker opposed.

Whitaker was nominated for mayor pro tem by councilmember Nick Dunlap and won by a 3-2 vote. Once again, the voting was similar to the previous votes, with Zahra and Silva opposed and Whitaker, Dunlap and Jung in favor.

Following the appointments, Jung said, “It’s an honor for me to present the mayor’s plaque and parking sign to our outstanding mayor, Mayor Whitaker.”

Whitaker spoke briefly, congratulated Jung and said he is looking forward to the next year as the council looks to make progress toward some of the challenges they have faced.

The evening began with comments from the community regarding the voting and appointment of the new mayor.

Curtis Cambell, a Fullerton resident and an activist for those experiencing homelessness and veterans, spoke before the appointments.

“Tonight, we get a new mayor; I think that we should continue to do right. Zahra had the opportunity to become pro tem, that was taken away from him,” Campbell said.

Campbell referred to a policy enacted in October 2020 that states, “selection of the mayor pro tem by the city council are based on seniority according to the number of years a member has served consequently on city council without serving as mayor.”

Last year, Dunlap was nominated by Jung despite Zahra being the most senior council member with two years as a council member. The appointment of Dunlap was not prohibited but broke the policy that was enacted.

Diane Bena, a Fullerton resident, thanked the council for their work and said she looks forward to a fresh start.

Bena showed support for Zahra and said, “Councilmember Jung, you stated that when you nominated the newly elected council member Dunlap to be mayor pro tem, you were extending an olive branch. I would ask you again tonight to extend an olive branch and nominate councilman Zahra and vote for him to be mayor. You are both good men; this would add a lot of coming together on the council and would be a respectful thing to do and a new start for the new council.”

Much of the discussion preceding the vote was centered around Zahra.

“I do this with love because I love our community, and I know that for some, I may be a controversial candidate,” Zahra said before the vote.

Zahra said that the community needs unity, and if that means he is not mayor, he accepts that, stating that he would support the appointment of Dunlap as mayor. He would accept the position of mayor pro tem.

Jung became the first Asian American Fullerton City Council member in over 20 years when he was elected in 2020. Before joining, Jung served on the Parks and Recreation Commission and Traffic and Circulation Commission.

According to his City of Fullerton biography, Jung was born in Seoul Korea and moved to the United States when he was five years old. He has been a Fullerton resident since 1987 and attended Sunny Hills High School, where he volunteered as a High School football coach for many years.

The next Fullerton City Council meeting will take place on Dec. 21.

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