City Council hears from applicants as contest for open seat nears end
March 2, 2011
By Warren Kagarise
NEW — 11 a.m. March 2, 2011
City Council applicants, dressed in suits and skirts, on Tuesday night faced the half dozen city leaders responsible for selecting a resident to serve on the council for the next 10 months.
Then, after the presentations, the council met in a closed-door session to discuss candidates’ qualifications. The decision to appoint a resident to the Position 5 seat is expected to occur Monday.
“I think almost everybody who put their hand up to come be a council member is well-spoken, outspoken and opinionated,” longtime Development Commission member and applicant Mary Lou Pauly said. “We’re all going to participate as actively as we can. That means doing our homework, reading the reports, getting prepared and then coming to the meetings with something to offer.”
Under state law, the council can discuss candidates’ qualifications in a closed-door session, but interviews and the decision must occur in public meetings.
The council called on the contenders to offer additional details to answers in the application packet for the position — and, rather than a question-and-answer format — asked the lineup to complete the pitch in 10 minutes.
“I don’t think I’ve prepared questions and answers like this since I ran for treasurer in 10th grade, so I’m a little nervous, but I think I’ll be OK,” Pauly said as she addressed the council.
The applicants highlighted experiences on municipal boards, nonprofit organizations and local businesses as qualifications for the job.
“I’m a businessman, I’m a citizen-soldier, I’m a volunteer, I’m a patriot,” Squak Mountain resident and applicant Michael Beard said. “I’m experienced, I’m passionate, I’m dedicated and I’m fair.”
The perfect fit
The council, through the presentation, also sought to gauge how each applicant might fit in as a member.
“If I feel differently than the majority of the council, my first response would be, ‘I guess I’d better listen a little bit more. Maybe I’ve missed something.’ That would be my emphasis: Let me go back through the issue and see if there is something that I missed, let me talk to the council members and see if they didn’t explain to me something I missed,” former councilman and applicant Joe Forkner said.
Issues related to economic development and a population boom — reflected in just-released Census 2010 data — formed the foundation for the applicants’ responses about the most important issues facing Issaquah in the years ahead.
“I consider Issaquah’s biggest issues are protecting its resources and managing its growth,” Talus resident and applicant Erik Olson said. “Growth cannot be stopped, but it can be managed in the best interests of its citizens.”
Most of the applicants serve on municipal boards, and help to shape city policies related to growth and other issues.
“I support Issaquah’s leadership in environmental stewardship,” Urban Village Development Commission member and applicant Nina Milligan said. “At the same time, I also support the development of our business community here in Issaquah. Those interests sometimes collide, but they are both values that Issaquah’s government policies hold dear.”
Though the appointee only serves until after the November council election, applicants discussed long-term goals for the city. The victor in the council race serves until Dec. 31, 2013.
“How do we, a city, help steer the ship of development without running it aground?” Milligan said. “I think this has yet to be determined, and I embrace and enjoy the opportunity to work on that.”
Attorney Stacy Goodman, a council applicant and a past editor of The Issaquah Press, said the journalistic and legal endeavors served as a primer for council service.
“I spent countless hours, I can assure you, at City Council meetings and community meetings and work sessions, so I’m more than familiar with how the city works,” she said. “I’m more than familiar with how this body works, and I’m very familiar with the dedication and the time involved in being a council member.”
Nathan Perea opted to apply for the open seat after campaigning for a council post against Tola Marts.
“When my campaign ended in 2009, I had a couple decisions,” Perea said. “I could walk away and say, ‘Well, you know, good learning experience.’ I made a very conscious decision to stay engaged and continue learning.”
Attorney Cristina Mehling said addressing land-use issues in Fife and Black Diamond as a municipal attorney prompted the decision to apply for the Issaquah seat.
“By my nature and my training, I’m trained to be a persuasive advocate for my client, and ultimately win my view,” she said. “However, one of my strengths in my practice area that has brought me success, is to look at the issue from both sides and form an objective opinion based on all of the evidence presented.”
Other applicants, including Paul Winterstein, said the decision to enter the contest stemmed from service to the community and past efforts to help shape city policy.
“I do believe that — regardless of what I maybe thought going into a situation — that by engaging and actively requesting and getting all of the divergent points of view and opinions about a matter, that through that collaborative process always results in a more informed and better decision,” he said. “I believe strongly in that collaborative decision-making process, and I would bring that process to everything I would participate in here as a member of the City Council.”
The council also faces a choice in regard to the applicants’ experience: Members could choose a longtime member in municipal and civic organizations, or a novice — something some candidates highlighted Monday night.
“Because I am so new to the community, and because I haven’t been involved in politics here, I offer a fresh slate,” Beard said. “I offer a fair, unbiased, perfectly honest membership to this council.”
Councilman Fred Butler lauded the applicants for heeding the call to serve the city.
“It takes a little bit of courage to step forward and say, ‘I’m going to throw my hat into the ring,’“ he said. “You’ve actually, this evening, provided a real service to the six of us up here. We’ve heard from you what’s important, what you think our focus should be, and we’ve learned from your passion and your thoughtfulness.”
Many applicants hinted at intentions to remain engaged in municipal affairs after the council appoints a resident to the open seat.
“If I am selected for this, I’ll be grateful and very happy,” Beard said. “If not, I plan to be much more involved in the community through a variety of ways.”