A top classical jazz entertainer is no longer seeking a seat on the South Pasadena City Council.
Jaz Sawyer announced earlier this week he is suspending his campaign in District 3. His departure from the race leaves Alan Ehrlich, Michelle Hammond and Jon Primuth vying for votes for the position. Bob Joe, the city’s current mayor, hopes to stay on the council in District 2 as he will be challenged by City Clerk Evelyn Zneimer, while Jack Donovan is the lone candidate in District 2, the same district Dr. Marina Khubesrian held the council seat for until she suddenly resigned amid controversy about three weeks ago.
“It was not an easy decision, however at this time, it is the right one for my family and I,” in a statement said Sawyer, who currently serves as a Public Arts Commissioner for the city and will “continue to address the issues of advocacy for public arts, equal justice, and protecting the needs of South Pasadena residents.”
In stepping away, Sawyer said District 3 “has a great group of candidates with a record of unwavering sacrifice and public service.”
Outside of his local interest in serving on the council, Sawyer is recognized as a superb drummer and percussionist around the globe, mentored by some of the best artists, including: Wynton Marsalis, Abbey Lincoln, George Benson, Bobby Hutcherson, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Randy Weston and Phil Lesh & Friends while playing in some of the world’s premiere venues, including Carnegie Hall, Kennedy Center, Lincoln Center, and the Sydney Opera House.
While he launched his campaign with a light political resume, Sawyer was confident he could make a difference and won’t rule out running for office in the future.
“I believe an opportunity exists to help improve the management and governance of the city as well as the other important issues such as equal justice, sustainability measures, small business growth and housing protections,” he said. “I can bring new creative ideas for problem-solving with an out of the box approach of thinking as I’ve worked with other cities in the communities in both the states of New York and California. This is not the end of my journey. There will be a right time for me to rise in the public sector, not just for my own aspirations but to be an effective citizen and public servant reaching an even broader scale. Though I am suspending my campaign I will still be on the ballot as a lot can happen until November. ”
Major budget issues and a high turnover rate at City Hall, along with the recent departures of a city council member and city manager, along with a struggling local economy as a result of the coronavirus pandemic find South Pasadena teetering, trying to find its way through unprecedented, difficult times. Khubesrian admitted to creating fictitious emails, sending one to City Council member Michael Cacciotti and to others critical of her actions while she held the seat. City Manager Stephanie DeWolfe, who announced her retirement last week, was presumed to be pushed out by the remaining council members in wake of the turmoil.
“Our city is at an impasse,” said Sawyer. “The state of the city is in a process of a complete reform. As we’ve seen what a difference a day makes, whereas, [new City Council member who replace Khubesrian] Steve Rossi stepped up to the plate, and along with his wife, Sheila, provided residents with a diligent report of the city’s budget actual shortfall. This is the type of action that is needed now. It’s all hands on deck. The news in our city is changing daily. The budget is not the only issue that requires action so hopefully the other candidates are developing a plan to support those changes that are needed. As a community, we must continue to have the conversations of all the current issues that can sometimes be uncomfortable. However, as long as South Pasadena keeps trying to improve on the areas of opportunities, we can get closer to reaching or shared goals.”
Sawyer stressed that it was not an easy decision to step away from a chance to represent the city on the council. “I am not quitter, but the level of reform the city requires at this point needs someone who has the strongest relationships with all residents in order to secure the city’s leadership on the right path forward. Thank you to all of my supporters who stood with me from the beginning of my candidacy. Please continue to practice social safety measures. Thank you.”