By Erik Galicia
After eight years in office, Riverside’s outgoing mayor said his goodbyes and handed the mayoral gavel to the city’s new leader.
Patricia Lock Dawson took Rusty Bailey’s seat and presided over the Riverside City Council for the first time Dec. 8.
“Our new chapter starts today,” Dawson said. “The city has sizable challenges ahead. We must stabilize our budget, work aggressively to address homelessness and employ a strong strategy for post-(COVID-19) economic recovery.”
Dawson advanced to a runoff election against Ward 2 City Councilman Andy Melendrez after the two candidates defeated four others during the city’s first mayoral election March 3. Although Melendrez received the most votes in the initial race, Dawson quickly took a large lead in the Nov. 3 election.
The new mayor’s lead over Melendrez only grew as absentee ballots were counted. The final numbers were 67,779 votes for Dawson and 47,529 for Melendrez, according to the Riverside County Registrar of Voters. Dawson commended Melendrez for running a strong campaign and remaining gracious.
Dawson’s campaign argued the city is facing bankruptcy due, in part, to pension obligations that are being paid off through the use of bonds. She has proposed balancing Riverside’s budget in a manner similar to the Riverside Unified School District, which she has served as a school board trustee since 2011.
She also proposed a regional approach to fighting homelessness that keeps neighboring cities from sending their homeless people to Riverside for services, along with increased partnerships with nonprofits for the development of homelessness prevention and exit strategies. Dawson, an environmental scientist, also plans to tap into Riverside’s green sector to attract higher-paying jobs into the area.
Bailey endorsed Dawson during the race and said he is excited to see his friend serve as Riverside’s 18th mayor.
“You are now public property,” he told Dawson, noting that President Abraham Lincoln once referred to himself as just that during one of his inaugural addresses. “I know you will serve with integrity and grace as our city’s mayor.”
Dawson said her team’s commitment is to listen to the public’s concerns, work toward creative solutions and maintain honest communications.
“Riverside’s best days are ahead of us,” she said. “We’re well-positioned with unique assets and a strong community to ensure a prosperous future. I look forward to working with our City Council and our city’s management team to unite our community around common goals.”