The Fullerton City Council elected Bruce Whitaker as the new mayor Tuesday night, taking Jennifer Fitzgerald’s position as she leaves after eight years on the council.
After a farewell for Fitzgerald and Mayor Pro Tem Jan Flory, the council welcomed Fred Jung, representing the city’s 1st District, and Nick Dunlap, representing the city’s second. The new council unanimously voted to elect Whitaker as mayor, with Dunlap serving as the mayor pro tem.
Whitaker, who has served the city since 2010, was previously appointed by the council as Fullerton mayor in 2013 and 2017. Before joining the council, he served as a Fullerton planning commissioner. Whitaker won reelection in the city’s 4th District this year by nearly 250 votes against challenger Aaruni Thakur, a Fullerton school board lawyer.
“This is the fourth time that I’ve had the honor of being selected to serve on this council and I can tell the new councilmembers that it really doesn’t diminish over time. The sense that you are being given the responsibility to help provide leadership to this city,” Whitaker said.
Councilmembers Ahmad Zahra and Jesus Silva kept their positions as they were not up for reelection this year.
Dunlap said joining the council was special for him as he grew up in the city and looks forward to serving his community. He recalled when his friends warned him about running for election during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s interesting to me that just signaled that it was in fact the right time,” Dunlap said. “This is not a glamorous position. This is one that’s entirely community service driven. And I think it’s such an honor to give back to my hometown.”
Jung, who won his election against Andrew Cho with over 51% of the vote, noted the importance of his own ethnic identity. Jung was born in Seoul, South Korea, and immigrated to the United States with his family at the age of five.
“Long before I was ever a Democrat or a Republican, I was a Korean American,” Jung said. “Long before I was conservative or progressive, I was a Fullertonian. I expect to govern that way.”
Fitzgerald said she ran for office in 2012 to be part of the solution to the many challenges the city faced. She said reforming the Fullerton Police Department was a priority, something she has been successful doing.
“This year as calls for police reform echoed across our country, they had only to look at Fullerton PD for answers. The willingness to reexamine, the will to change, and the uncompromising standard of excellence,” Fitzgerald said.
Fitzgerald also said she worked tirelessly to tackle the homelessness crisis and that Fullerton was the first city in Orange County to create a full-time homelessness liaison officer program that has helped the community. She said the city has partnered with nonprofits to engage and educate the homeless community, as well as opening a shelter this year.
This was the third time Flory left the council. She said the city has been good to her and thanked those who helped her serve.
“At the end of the day, serving on the city council for 14 years has been a joyride for me in many respects and I owe thanks to so many people for giving me the opportunity to participate in the governance of our great little city,” Flory said.
Both Flory and Fitzgerald spoke about their friendship on the council. Despite political differences and many disagreements, the two managed to maintain a strong friendship.
“What we’re going to be known by is our actions and on the results we produce and so I’d like all five members of this council to be able to share in those many accomplishments that I anticipate,” Whitaker said.
The next city council meeting will be held on Dec. 15.