Off the Press

March 15, 2011

By Warren Kagarise

Council offers reality TV moment in tiebreaker

The protracted process to turn a resident from Jane or John Q. Public into a City Council member did not, despite high hopes, resemble a reality TV showdown.

Warren Kagarise Press reporter

If behind-the-scenes catfights did indeed occur amid the bonhomie and pitch-perfect presentations, none spilled out. Harrumph.

So, the group on hand March 1 for the pitches to the council — and applicants outnumbered attendees — observed no backbiting or sabotage, no bad-mouthing or name-calling. Instead, the process felt a little like the Miss America Pageant.

Mary Lou Pauly, a Development Commission member since Issaquah claimed less than 9,000 people, earned the congeniality sash for describing the applicant list as “well-spoken, outspoken and opinionated” — some of the most-desired qualities in a public official and, coincidentally, certain reality TV show contestants.

The dressed-to-impress applicants, in chipper proposals to the half-dozen council members, ticked through mileslong résumés and laudable ideas for the city.

Joe Forkner, to scrounge a metaphor from Aesop, turned out to be the tortoise — ceaselessly dependable and steady, if not flashy.

In the conversational category: Nathan Perea, a council candidate in 2009 and, to extend the metaphor to another candidate, the hare in the application process.

Yeah, I realize the hare has a longstanding reputation as a pain in the cottontail, but I apply the description to Perea because the erstwhile — and perhaps future? — candidate offers boundless enthusiasm for Issaquah.

In tones ranging from conversational to formal, each applicant offered a reasoned case for appointment to the council. Some served anecdotes as a way to make a memorable impression.

Cristina Mehling — Issaquah Highlands resident and immigrant-from-Romania-turned-attorney — and Michael Beard — a former Navy pilot and the son of a police officer dedicated to public service — offered the most compelling biographies of the bunch.

Nina Milligan, the next-to-last applicant on the interview list, offered a heartfelt and eloquent tribute to the reason behind the empty seat: “Maureen McCarry’s departure from the council sounded to me like a call to duty.”

(McCarry resigned late last year after being diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease.)

The decision less than a week after the March 1 interviews offered a display akin to “Survivor” — the reality TV chestnut. Then, as applicants and a TV audience of dozens looked on, council members appointed Stacy Goodman after some public jockeying and a dramatic — or dramatic for municipal government, at least — tiebreaker.

Sometimes, reality is much better than reality TV.

Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or wkagarise@isspress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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