Lauren Meister was installed as mayor of West Hollywood and John Heilman as mayor pro tem in a standing-room-only session of the City Council last night.
Meister was sworn in by Nicklaus Fox, a West Hollywood veterinarian. Fox also is known as “Helen” of the West Hollywood Cheerleaders, a colorful non-profit focused on promoting self-acceptance among LGBTQ people and ending the stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS.
Meister has been active in civic affairs in West Hollywood for almost 20 years. She got her start as a neighborhood watch captain. She went on to lead the West Hollywood West Residents Association, the largest neighborhood association in WeHo, representing residents on issues such as public safety, traffic circulation, parking and development, and advocating for protecting green space, preserving the city’s history and character and providing off-leash parks for pets.
In a speech after her swearing in, Meister called out a number of issues that she sees as important for the city. They include implementing strategies for helping the city’s residents “age in place” rather than be moved to retirement homes and offering social and recreational opportunities for aging residents. “Since the year 2000, our 55-to-64 year old age group has experienced the largest increase in West Hollywood demographics, growing over 36%, while 21 to 34 experienced the greatest decline (by 12%),” Meister said. “The last of the Baby Boomers are getting their AARP cards. But, being 50+ today is not like being 50+, 30 years ago.
“So, who are these new WeHo seniors? In fact, some of these folks are the same LGBT activists, straight allies, neighborhood advocates, artists, rockers and visionaries that founded and shaped the City of West Hollywood over the last 31 years. And this new generation of senior is more vital than ever.”
Meister also noted the Council’s support for her proposal for the city to research ways to support the city’s small businesses. They also need to be able to “age in place,” she said.
“Another challenge is how we move forward to help our homeless,” Meister said, calling out the city’s recently approved homeless needs assessment study, which will help identify homeless veterans and mentally ill or addicted homeless people. And she noted that she has begun conversations with the Veterans Administration and non-profit groups about possible interest in opening an animal shelter at the Westside VA facility.
Meister also called out another issue that she has been focused on: ensuring that West Hollywood residents are charged fairly for water provided by the City of Beverly Hills on the Westside and the L.A. Department of Water and Power elsewhere in the city.
Meister replaces Lindsey Horvath as mayor. The position is largely an honorary roll, rotating year to year among Council members. However it does offer its holder the potential for significant impact on civic issues.