When Philip Lum Jr. was first elected to the Colma Town Council in 1986, he was 33 years old, the U.S. had 240 million residents and a gallon of gas cost less than a dollar.
Twenty years, 60 million residents and about $1.50 per gallon later, Lum’s tenure on the council appears to be coming to an end, after a federal indictment on public corruption charges proved too much for his campaign to bear.
Lum’s 20 years and five terms as mayor are second to Raymond Ottoboni’s 33 years on the council, from 1950 to 1983, according to the Colma Historical Society.
The latest election results have Lum losing by nine votes — 171 to 162 — to challenger Joanne Del Rosario, who turned to the growing Filipino community in Colma for her votes. The results are all but final and the county plans to certify them by Dec. 5, San Mateo County Elections Officer David Tom said.
Lum, now 53, told The Examiner that he will continue to live and be active in the community as someone residents can come to with their concerns and questions about city process. He said he was especially proud of 1993’s Sterling Park Beautification program; 1996’s undergrounding of Colma’s utilities; 2002’s decision to provide free cable for residents and the Minor Housing Repair Grant program; and the 2004 community center and 2005 police station.
“It’s like I lost my family. I’ve been in it so long it was like a career to me,” Lum said of his time on the council. “It’s going to be unusual not to be on the City Council and not making decisions for the people.”
He said he doesn’t have bad feelings about the result because of the strong support he received despite the negative publicity — the “cloud of doubt,” as he put it — from the indictment.
The Oct. 3 federal indictment alleges that from 1999-2002, Lum took several trips to the Philippines with plane tickets purchased by Lucky Chances Casino or its owner and failed to report those gifts as required by law. It also alleges he took actions while on the council that were potentially beneficial to the casino, again without revealing any possible conflict of interest or recusing himself.
Pat Hatfield, a 56-year resident of Colma, said that the council had developed a good working relationship in the last eight years and that “time will tell” if the new council can continue their good rapport with one another.
Lum said supporters have asked whether he’ll run again, but he said he doesn’t know and is focused on clearing his name of the corruption charges.
He is due in court Dec. 7 in front of U.S. Judge Jeffrey White, exactly one month after the Nov. 7 election.