Council: Never mind, new member will be installed next year
Against her wishes, the council has reversed a decision to appoint a replacement for Mayor-elect Jennifer Gregerson’s vacated seat before she is sworn into office.
Mukilteo City Council voted 4-1 on Monday to push the appointment of a new councilmember to fill former Councilmember Gregerson’s unexpired term of Council Position 7 to Jan. 21, to serve a remainder of two years.
Gregerson resigned Dec. 4 to prepare for her term of office as mayor of Mukilteo starting Jan. 1. Her last motion as a councilmember to speed up the appointment process and install a seventh member on Dec. 30 passed – but it only stuck two weeks.
The reversal essentially follows staff recommendations to have the newly-elected council appoint a councilmember in January. It is the same process followed to appoint Councilmember Richard Emery in 2008.
“That was one of the most difficult votes I have made, and I began to regret it almost as soon as I made it,” said Emery, who made the motion to reverse it. “The decision to reconsider was mine and only mine. There were no back room deals.”
He said he had voted to speed up the appointment process to protect the new mayor and her administration – but ultimately realized that he should have honored council-elect Bob Champion and Ted Wheeler’s right to decide.
“Even though I have great respect for Joe Marine, having him on the new council would have been awkward at best, and could have been a serious distraction for the new mayor and council,” he said.
Emery, who lost his re-election bid to Champion, had expressed interest in applying for the vacant position, but said that he won’t. He said his desire to apply had to do with denial that he had lost the election.
As he had helped set up an accelerated process and then reverse it, “it would be too easy for my decision to appear self-serving,” he said. “The city does not need more controversy about this.”
Councilmembers Emily Vanderwielen, Randy Lord and Linda Grafer voted with Emery to keep the process as is precedent. Councilmember Kevin Stoltz was absent.
“I’m thankful we’re back on track and that the process was not circumvented to appease other people’s agendas,” Vanderwielen said. “I’m not afraid of Bob and Ted making the decision next year. They have minds of their own and can make the right decision.
Council President Lord agrees.
“People believe it’s a done deal, and it’s not,” he said. “I’m looking very carefully for the best fit for the entire council.”
Although he likes that councilmembers can make motions of reconsideration – and has made several himself – Councilmember Steve Schmalz said he has an issue with Emery’s.
Schmalz noted that Stoltz and Gregerson, now resigned, had helped to approve the accelerated process and were not able to re-vote Monday.
“We don’t have the same council makeup as we did with that vote,” Schmalz said. “Now the playing field is tilted, and unfairly. It’s pretty much a done deal. This is troubling to me.”
The three who voted with Gregerson to speed up the process were told it was “dishonorable” and a “dirty trick,” Schmalz said, but now “people can infer that that was the same way this was done.”
Stoltz said Dec. 3 that the council should appoint Preshaw to fill the remainder of Gregerson’s term because it would be “the most responsive to Mukilteo voters.”
He and Schmalz said the council shouldn’t wait until Jan. 6 to appoint a councilmember because, if it did, Champion and Wheeler would be tasked with filling a position for which they have just been elected.
Mukilteo resident Jon Boyce asked Mayor Joe Marine pointblank on Dec. 16 if he would be applying for the vacated seat. As his time at the podium was for “comments” and not “questions,” Marine did not answer Boyce’s query.
Instead, the mayor and council sat in silence for the remainder of Boyce’s allotted three minutes.
“Most everything is pre-determined behind the scenes,” Boyce said. “It’s important to the community that you don’t put on a big charade here. Look at the available applicants and choose the best one.”
At the meeting’s close, Marine revealed that he would not apply for Gregerson’s seat. Up until Monday, he had neither confirmed nor denied plans. He said he found the mounting concern that he would be appointed flattering, to say the least.
“I assured Jennifer that even if I had considered it, with the respect I have for the position of mayor, the council and staff of this city, why would I do anything to undermine her administration?
“That would put the city and the council in a bad position; that’s not who I am as mayor.”
Want Gregerson’s seat? The deadline to apply for the position is noon Friday, Dec. 20.
Applications and additional information can be found at www.ci.mukilteo.wa.us or by contacting Executive Assistant Nancy Passovoy at firstname.lastname@example.org or 425-263-8018.