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When councilwoman Lindsey Horvath was sworn in as mayor in May 2020, she didn’t know that her tenure would include an extended term and a persisting global pandemic that would outlast her time in office.
Despite the unusual circumstances, she said she felt privileged to have led West Hollywood.
“It was a tremendous honor to serve the city, especially during an extraordinarily challenging time, a time unlike any other that our city has seen,” Horvath said. “It was an honor to be of service and to work with my colleagues and our city staff to take care of people at a time when they really needed support and care.”
On Sept. 20, Horvath passed the gavel to the new mayor, Lauren Meister, who previously served as mayor from 2016 to 2017. Sepi Shyne was named mayor pro tempore.
The change comes after Horvath served a 16-month term — the longest term to ever be served by a mayor in West Hollywood.
The City Council in March voted to sync mayoral terms with the city’s new election calendar. After Meister’s term, she and Horvath will be tied for the longest-sitting mayor of West Hollywood.
Before Horvath was sworn in, COVID-19 began taking its toll on the city. Horvath, along with other city leaders, had to figure out property safety protocols, navigate virtual meetings, find innovative ways to stimulate business and provide relief to individuals who were struggling with employment and housing losses.
And though she said it was at times difficult to find appropriate solutions, it wasn’t her biggest challenge.
“It was knowing when to go to sleep,” she said with a chuckle. “There were so many challenges that people faced, and even just the uncertainty and anxiety people felt, whether they were living in isolation or worried about keeping their businesses open, there was so much that weighed heavy on people’s hearts. But if we don’t take care of ourselves, we can’t be of service to others, so the hardest thing was figuring out when to rest.”
Looking back at her term, Horvath said the key to her success was listening to constituents, even when what they were saying was difficult to hear.
“The more we listen, the more we open ourselves to seeing different points of view, the more we’re open to hearing how people are experiencing things, it will make us more compassionate leaders and connected to what we need to do for people,” she said. “It offers us the opportunity to find new solutions to the problems we’re facing and gives us the opportunity to let people know that we’re here for them.”
In her new role, Meister said she wants to bring that same philosophy to the board chambers. Meister hopes to solve issues such as homelessness, housing affordability and city safety by first restoring the city’s sense of community.
“We are seeing a divisiveness that I haven’t seen in a while and it’s disturbing because we are still one small city and one community comprised of people from all walks of life,” Meister said. “All should be valued. None should be discounted … none of these improvements can happen if we don’t work together.”
In her first weeks, Meister said she’ll bring a proposal requesting the city manager arrange several team-building workshops to help foster communication and identify common goals among the council.
Shyne, who is Iranian American, was elected in November 2020, making her the first woman of color elected to the City Council.
Since her election, Shyne has initiated or co-sponsored 34 council items, and she said she’s excited to continue work on a social justice task force, small business revival and renter protection programs. But, she’s most proud to bring representation to the council.
“I never imagined serving in elected office because growing up, I truly did not see anyone that looked like me, grew up like me and loved like me in elected office,” Shyne said. “But now I know that another little Middle Eastern girl who may be queer can imagine herself in elected office because now she does see herself.”
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