A composite photo with an image of Banning City Hall in the background and a portrait of Banning Councilmember David Happe in front of it.
Former Banning City Councilmember David Happe was appointed to the District 4 seat earlier this month. (Portrait courtesy of the city of Banning)

The Banning City Council earlier this month voted to appoint former Councilmember David Happe to fill the District 4 seat until November, when voters will have the opportunity to decide who will fill the seat for the remainder of the term vacated by former Councilmember Reuben Gonzales.

“I just wanted to take the time and thank all the candidates for being here tonight,” Mayor Alberto Sanchez said before making the motion to appoint Happe. “As much as I would love to have all five of you up here as well, because I can see that all of you guys can bring a lot to this council and to the city and to the residents of this community, unfortunately we get to choose one.”

Happe was initially elected to the District 4 seat in November 2018, but was defeated by Gonzales in his bid for reelection in 2022.

“In my reelection bid, I was handily defeated by a handful of votes,” he said. “It was a really close race, and certainly Mr. Gonzales was a formidable candidate and has a great personality and hopefully brought value to [the] council, and it’s a shame that we’re here now having to discuss his resignation.”

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However, it was this history that gave Councilmember Sheri Flynn pause, along with the fact that she felt the appointment was improper due to the circumstances surrounding Gonzales’ resignation, an issue she brought up when the council first decided to make an appointment.

“[This appointment] would add insult to injury to District 4, to not only do what I consider an illegal appointment and not give them a choice, but also to pick the person that they soundly rejected,” she said. “And I think we need to move forward and have new ideas and new thoughts and new blood on this council.”

Happe also said that it was his intention to run for office in the November 2024 election to fill the remainder of the term.

“I have done the job, and I feel that I haven’t quite finished yet,” he said. “I want to continue and be part of this council and part of this city and the success of its growth.”

Despite Flynn’s vote against appointing Happe to the seat, the motion passed with Sanchez and Councilmember Colleen Wallace voting in favor, Mayor Pro Tem Rick Minjares voting to abstain, though due to the circumstances of the abstention, the vote was counted with the majority.

According to Happe’s bio on the city’s website, Happe is a retired firefighter born and raised in northern New Jersey and is the owner of The Station TapHouse in downtown Banning along with his wife Stacey.

The other candidates interviewed for the position were Beverly Berry, Keenan McCafferty, Diego Rose and Richard Royce.

A full recording of the meeting can be found here on the city’s website.

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Alicia Ramirez is the publisher of TN News and the founder and CEO of its parent company TN News.