Anyone who’s been around government for any length of time knows it’s always a work in progress. Works in progress tend toward surprises. Call them bumps in the road that occur with some frequency.

One of those bumps popped up at the Solvang City Council meeting last week, when just as the council was settling in to address its published agenda, council member Hans Duus asked for the floor, and announced he was heading for the door.

And after a few brief comments, that’s exactly what the long-time council member did. It was a surprise to just about everyone in the meeting room, but not so much for friends of Duus, many of whom probably already knew about the foreclosure on his Solvang home, and the fact that Duus and his wife Carla had been living in Santa Maria in recent weeks.

Duus had been serving on the council since 2008, but his hold on the seat became ever-so-tenuous in the most recent election, in which he won by a scant five votes over challenger Karen Waite. More about that in a moment.

Actually, Duus’ decision to resign his council position was based on personal matters. According to City Attorney David Fleishman’s interpretation of court decisions over whether a person actually has to be living in a city to serve as an elected representative, Duus could have stayed legally, because he was born and raised in Solvang, thus establishing the legal requirements for domicile.

Be that as it may, Duus opted to resign, and his quickie announcement at last week’s meeting set off a barrage of compliments and thanks for his years of public service, which included his participation in a number of positive changes for the city and its taxpayers.

The surprise announcement also triggered a discussion about how Duus’ replacement will be chosen. In the end, it was decided that previously-established protocol should be followed, and the council seat should be offered to Waite.

Waite was in the audience when Duus made his resignation official, and said she was “very interested” in taking the vacant seat.

Given that she only lost to Duus by five votes, Waite would seem to be a natural choice, and her enthusiasm about city governance is a major plus.

No matter what the council decides, the city will remain in good hands.

***

And while the city of Solvang will stay in good hands, with or without Hans Duus, so will the region’s wine grape crop, thanks in part to the annual blessing of the grapes at a local wine bistro, thus officially opening the fall grape harvest.

Actually, harvesting has already begun in many vineyards as certain varieties are ready to come off the vine.

A sizable crowd gathered last week outside Terravant’s Bistro in Buellton, gazing at a vat of grapes that were blessed in a multi-denominational ceremony presided over by Father Chuck Stacy of Solvang, Rabbi Jayne Simon of San Luis Obispo, and the Rev. Randall Day of St. Marks-in-the-Valley Episcopal Church in Los Olivos.

Local wines are gaining an international reputation, which suggests the local wine industry will only continue to grow and prosper. That notion doesn’t always sit so well with a few Valley residents, old-timers and newcomers alike, but as with a few other major new commercial ventures around here, it is what it is.

Rev. Day let the crowd in on a little secret about such blessings — that these grapes at the center of attention are “already a blessing.”

We are compelled to agree.

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