The Arcata City Council gave a unanimous vote to remove Brett Watson as mayor and replace him with former Vice Mayor Stacy Atkins-Salazar in a meeting on October 20. Council Member Emily Grace Goldstein was elected Vice Mayor.
Watson pleaded guilty to driving under the influence in September. He was pulled over by Arcata police officers August 1 after driving recklessly on Highway 101. It was later revealed that he was in possession of cocaine and was charged with a fine, court ordered counseling, and a rehabilitation program. However, it’s not clear that this situation is related to him being removed as mayor.
Vice Mayor Goldstein explained the situation, choosing to keep the former mayor’s alleged wrongdoings confidential.
“This last week, information came to light regarding alleged behaviors of Councilmember Watson that negatively affected the city and some of its staff members,” said Goldstein.
Since Watson’s DUI case was over two months ago, it appears that Watson’s removal was due to unrelated actions. Watson was not present at the council meeting because of personal reasons.
In a statement to the public last Friday, Watson announced that he will be entering a rehabilitation program.
“On Monday October 11th, I informed the City Council and staff I would be stepping down as Mayor and entering a 30 day residential rehabilitation program to focus on depression and personal issues,” said Watson.
The remaining city council would like to remove Watson from the city council as well, but have no legal authority to do so. It is not yet clear whether Watson will resign from the city council on his own accord.
“We have no legal ability to remove him from the city council,” Goldstein said. “However, I believe we owe it to the people of Arcata to make it clear we do not align ourselves with the actions of council-member Watson.”
Watson attributed his actions to a family tragedy that severely impacted him.
“Last week was the one year anniversary of my father’s death,” Watson said in a press release after his arrest in August. “He was severely depressed and took his own life. I’ve really been struggling with the loss this last week.”
Mayor Atkins-Salazar wants to keep the city’s focus on the future despite the drama surrounding the former mayor.
“We’ve been elected to help run and guide the city of Arcata and that’s exactly what we want to do and are trying to do,” Atkins-Salazar said. “So it’s important that we move forward. To reiterate, this was not taken lightly.”
Mayor Atkins-Salazar and Vice Mayor Goldstein will serve their positions until December 22, 2022 when a new mayor and vice mayor will be decided by the city council.