Heart trouble slows mayor
Ongoing heart problems have forced Marysville Mayor Bill Harris to indefinitely step aside from his duties at City Hall, the mayor said Monday.
When the City Council meets tonight, it will be the fourth consecutive meeting Harris has missed. The last meeting he attended was Feb. 7, not long before his doctors discovered an arrhythmia, or irregular heartbeat, he said.
Harris, 55, who was elected in November 2004 to a four-year term as mayor, said he was diagnosed with heart problems about eight years ago. He had a heart attack in 2000 while serving as a council member, and he said he's had lingering trouble ever since.
“I kind of had a flare-up, and the doctors told me to take it easy for a while,” he said in a phone interview Monday. “At some point, I'm sure I'll be back.”
When that will happen is unclear, Harris and city officials said.
Harris' almost two-month absence from the five-member City Council's biweekly regular meetings, committee meetings and other responsibilities hasn't directly impacted city work. In Marysville, the city manager, not the mayor, is responsible for overseeing staff and daily management.
City Manager Steve Casey said officials were waiting to make an announcement about Harris' health because they initially thought he would miss only one City Council meeting. Casey said he didn't know until Sunday that Harris also would miss tonight's meeting.
“I've been in contact with him over the past several weeks to make sure he's OK,” he said. “I think we were getting to the point where we would need to make an announcement.”
Harris' absence leaves the City Council without a crucial fifth vote. That allows the possibility for action on public business to fail if the council votes 2-2 on an item. The city charter requires any action before the council to be approved with at least three votes.
Vice Mayor Christina Billeci, who has run City Council meetings in place of Harris, said she doesn't foresee a problem.
“I think the council's pretty much on-board with issues,” she said. “I think right now we're really well-focused on what's best for the city. ล We've been really working well as a team.”
It has helped that the council hasn't had any items of significant contention or controversy on its agenda since Harris left, she said. “We're just going to work around (the mayor's absence) as best we can,” she said.
In the meantime, Harris said he is relaxing at home with his wife and two teenage children. His cardiologist recently gave him permission to work half-days at his day job as program manager for the Yuba County Probation Department, he said.
“It makes me feel better that I can leave the council in good hands,” he said.
Appeal-Democrat reporter Daniel Thigpen can be reached at 749-4713. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.