The Salt Lake City Council elected a new council chairman in an informal vote Thursday night, passing the baton from a liberal to a conservative.
Councilman W.M. "Willie" Stoler replaced Chairman Tom Godfrey in a 4-2 vote during a Committee of the Whole meeting. Freshman councilman Alan Hardman was elected vice chairman.
The vote for chairman, who wields some control over scheduling agendas and over direction of council staff, must be formalized in a regular council session next year.
"I don't see nay real significant changes," Stoler said, adding that he and Hardman are conservatives.
Stoler consistently votes with the the council's so-called conservative Gang of Four, often opposing initiatives by Mayor Palmer DePaulis. Godfrey stood behind the mayor in voting the three remaining members of the council.
Councilwoman Sydney Fonnesbeck, who abstained from the vote for chairman and who frequently is at loggerheads with Stoler, said the 4-2 vote electing Stoler reflected the council's typical voting ratio.
"These four people have been voting as a bloc for a year, why should it change now.?" she said, referring to Stoler, Hardman and council members Florence Bittner and Wayne Horrocks.
In last year's chairmanship election, council members made an effort to elect representatives from both camps -- seating Godfrey as chairman and Stoler as vice chairman, Fonnesbeck said. No such effort was made this year, she complained.
"I know of no such arrangement made last year," Stoler said, " so I can't comment on that.
Some City hall officials said Hardman was the subject of a compromise effort to seat him as chariman.
"I had hoped that Alan would be hair because, of the four, he is the most moderate," Fonnesbeck said.