SURPRISE! SURPRISE! BOMGAARS RETIRES FROM BELLFLOWER CITY COUNCIL … BUT SUGGESTS A WAY HE COULD STAYBy Dave Wielenga
A year after voters elected him to a sixth term, Bellflower City Council member Randy Bomgaars concluded Tuesday night’s meeting by announcing that he will retire, effective June 20, so as to coincide with his June 21 retirement as a school teacher and maximize the benefits he receives from both pensions.
But near the end of prepared remarks delivered in a heartfelt style that has been Bomgaars’ style—let’s go ahead and call it Bomgaarsianian—he slipped in the possibility that his farewell from the council might not equal his departure. As Bomgaars did, we’ll get to that in due dramatic time.
Bomgaars’ 22-plus years in office make him the longest-serving council member in the history of Bellflower and include a record five times as mayor. He has been a teacher at Thomas Jefferson Elementary in the Bellflower Unified School District for 40 years.
Bomgaars’ announcement Tuesday night appeared to catch most people in the Council Chambers at Bellflower City Hall by surprise.
“The decision has nothing to do with my health, as some may suspect—I feel okay,” Bomgaars told them. “Nor does it have to do with my willingness to serve—I still love my job on the City Council.
“I have made this decision because of a quirk in the state law that allows me to combine my teacher’s retirement pension with the small pension that I receive as a member of the City Council for 22-plus years. By combining the two separate retirement plans, my family and I will benefit from an increase in the pension benefits I will receive.”
Bomgaars anticipated those who might wonder why he ran for re-election in 2011 if he was considering retirement.
“Honestly,” he said during his statement, “it was an issue that I was not even aware existed until the last 9 months.”
In situations where a member of an elected governing body voluntarily leaves the position before the end of a term, the remaining members generally have 60 days to decide what kind of election to hold to fill the seat—one in which the voting public chooses or one in which the remaining members make an appointment.
And here is where Bomgaars suggested a scenario under which his career on the Bellflower City Council could continue even after his retirement.
“According to PERS (Public Employees Retirement System) regulations, I could be appointed to serve all of my remaining term, or a portion of it,” Bomgaars said. “I would be able to collect Council salary but not—and I repeat not—my PERS retirement during that time.
“If this is seen as a political imposition, I understand the Council not considering this option. I love public service.”
Bomgaars acknowledged his wife, children, grandchildren—even his future son-in-law—who were in attendance.
“My second love,” he said, “is serving as a City Councilmember in our great city.”