It’s official. City Councilmember John Heilman was elected last night as mayor of West Hollywood and fellow Councilmember John Duran was elected mayor pro tem. Both will be formally installed at the May 15 Council meeting.
The City Council rotates the largely ceremonial position each year. Traditionally the position is rotated according to seniority among current Council members, with the next-longest serving person being named mayor pro tem and the second longest-serving named mayor pro tem and placed in line to become mayor in 12 months. Heilman has served as mayor pro tem. Heilman will replace Lauren Meister, who was elected to the City Council in 2015.
Like most small cities, West Hollywood is governed by a city council with a city manager employed by the council as its chief executive. As mayor, Heilman will lead City Council meetings, sign official documents for the city and serve as the public face of West Hollywood. He now is in his 33rd year as a council member. The mayor pro tem fills in for the mayor when he is not available.
While the position of mayor comes with little official power, some occupants have leveraged it. For example, Councilmember Lindsey Horvath, who served as mayor before Meister, gained national attention when she announced that Donald Trump, then a candidate for president, wasn’t welcome in West Hollywood. That led to interviews on CNN and other national news media. It also led to continuing references to Horvath as mayor after Meister’s term began, which upset her. The role also has practical impact at City Council meetings, where people sometimes engage in rambling speeches or shout from the audience, things the mayor must gavel down.
Heilman moved to Southern California from his native Cleveland to attend the University of Southern California Law School, from which he graduated in 1982. He currently teaches law at both Southwestern Law School and the University of Southern California Law School. Heilman was active in the incorporation of the City of West Hollywood in 1984 and was elected to WeHo’s first City Council in November 1984. He was chosen as the city’s second Mayor in 1985 and also has served as mayor in 1990, 1995, 1999, 2001, 2006 and 2010.
Duran is a criminal defense lawyer who has served on the WeHo City Council since 2001. He has a law degree from Western State University College of Law and a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration from CSU Long Beach. Duran is a native of Los Angeles and has been a resident of West Hollywood since 1987. He is known for his activity in LGBT causes and currently is chairman of the Los Angeles Gay Men’s Chorus.