San Mateo mayor looks at year ahead

As Mayor Jack Matthews stepped down from his first year as the head of the San Mateo City Council, he handed the baton to a veteran who is no stranger to the center chair.

Former Vice Mayor Carole Groom was sworn in as mayor Monday night, returning to the position she held in 2004. And although she said she’s looking forward to being the public face of the five-member body once again, the year ahead will be a busy one.

“We need to continue to work on keeping good strong economic stability, and we have a lot of infrastructure improvements we need to get to,” said Groom, who first joined the council in 2000. “I think it’s going to be a lot of nuts and bolts in this next year.”

Echoing the same concerns that her colleagues Matthews and John Lee shared during their campaigns for re-election, Groom said the hardest struggle may be finding a way to help San Mateo grow into the future without disrespecting its past, a hard task with the city planning to tear down the historic Bay Meadows Race Course by 2009.

Groom, head of community relations for Mills-Peninsula Health Services, said she was also hoping to begin helping San Mateo residents deal with new Federal Emergency Management Agency guidelines that place much of the eastern portion of the city in a flood-hazard zone, potentially raising insurance rates.

With the final flood map due at the onset of 2008, the mayor said she hopes to continue community meetings with residents in the affected areas to find ways — that could include assessment districts to raise improvement funds — to get San Mateo out of the flood zone.

Matthews — who was also sworn in to his second term — described his colleague as a “forceful leader,” who isn’t afraid to go after what she feels is the best course of action for the city. With major changes such as the continued Bay Meadows redevelopment still looming, tough decisions will have to be made.

“Change is seldom easy and usually difficult,” he said. “We must acknowledge that there are pressures for change and that we have options, and we need to find out what the best route to take is and pursue it” he said.

jgoldman@examiner.com

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