Council speeds up search for its new member
Amid controversy, a replacement for Mayor-elect Jennifer Gregerson’s vacant council seat will be appointed before she is sworn into office in January.
Mukilteo City Council voted 4-3 on Dec. 3 to appoint a new councilmember to fill former Councilmember Gregerson’s unexpired term of Council Position 7 on Dec. 30, 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.
“Filling the vacancy quickly is important so that the council can get on its feet quickly,” Gregerson said. “It will help us start the new year with all three new members, and help me focus on the various transitions and changes that I’m working on.”
Staff recommended that the newly elected council – with new councilmembers Bob Champion and Ted Wheeler – allow a month’s time for applications and appoint a councilmember by Jan. 21.
It would have been the same process that was followed to appoint Councilmember Richard Emery in 2008.
After a recount, Wheeler won the Position 1 race against Terry Preshaw by 26 votes, according to results certified Monday by Snohomish County Elections.
Councilmembers Emily Vanderwielen, Randy Lord and Linda Grafer voted against a sped-up appointment process.
“I don’t want to circumvent the process,” Vanderwielen said. “We have a system in place, it should stick. We owe it to the new councilmembers – they have every right and privilege to make that decision.
“I do not like forcing this. I’m not in a rush. To me, this seems like dirty business.”
Council Vice President Grafer agrees.
“I’m suspicious of why we have to rush through this,” she said. “I’m really concerned with how this administration is starting out.”
Councilmember Steve Schmalz said that with 27 days before Dec. 30, he doesn’t see an issue.
“I can see why maybe people are upset, but the argument doesn’t hold water,” he said. “We have an obligation to our residents to have a council ready to go by the first meeting of the year.”
Wheeler said it saddens him that he and Champion won’t get a voice. He had asked that the council approve a process that allows them to be involved.
“You just told me that I’m stupid, and that bothers me,” he said. “I’m hoping I’m not regretting being voted in to council.”
Councilmember Kevin Stoltz said the council should appoint Preshaw to fill the remainder of Gregerson’s term because it would be “the most responsive to Mukilteo voters.”
“Appointing anyone other than Terry Preshaw would be an obvious slap in the face to Mukilteo voters and would send a message that the council believes they know better,” Stoltz said.
In an apparent reference to outgoing Mayor Joe Marine and outgoing Councilmember Richard Emery, Stoltz said, “Worse yet, appointing an incumbent who lost the election to the vacant council position would be a black mark on the council and an insult to the newly elected mayor and councilmembers.”
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.
Council President Lord disagrees.
“I’m disappointed in how our council is choosing to go,” Lord said. “We’re going to have people voting who are purely trying to shape the council before they leave. I think that that’s dishonorable.”
Lord added that it would be an insult to Champion and Wheeler to make a decision without them.
“Councilmember Emery had to make the largest decision of his life a week after joining, when he had to decide what to do about Rosehill,” Lord said. “Nobody argued whether he was qualified or not.”
Emery, who lost his re-election bid to Champion, had expressed interest in applying for the vacant position, but said that he probably won’t now that he will be voting to appoint a new member.
“I would still be a sitting councilmember, and that would just seem awkward and contrived,” Emery said.
He noted that Mukilteans may not like that two outgoing councilmembers and an outgoing mayor, if a tiebreaker is needed, will be making the decision. He said he wouldn’t want to add to the controversy.
Mayor Marine said it’s a conflict of interest that Stoltz would endorse Preshaw and vote to appoint her before his term is over. The mayor has neither confirmed nor denied plans to apply.
Michele Meaker Pin, who withdrew from the Position 1 race in May, announced on Dec. 3 that she would be applying for the vacated seat.
“I know that that was a tough vote, I think on both sides, whether you voted yes or no,” Gregerson said. “I know that there are some councilmembers who are upset with me, and it will take some time to repair our relationship.”
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.
The mayor and City Council will interview applicants during a special meeting on Monday, Dec. 30. The mayor and council expect to select a replacement that evening.