City Council chooses Tola Marts, Fred Butler for leadership posts

January 5, 2012

By Warren Kagarise

NEW — 8 a.m. Jan. 5, 2012

City Council members chose Tola Marts to lead the board in the coming year, as the council reorganizes City Hall and delves into a long-term plan to redevelop the business district.

Tola Marts

In unanimous decisions Tuesday, council members elected Marts to the top spot on the board — council president — and longtime member Fred Butler to serve in the No. 2 position.

The council president leads the legislative branch of city government. The responsibilities for the role include leading semimonthly council meetings and monthly Committee-of-the-Whole Council meetings, handling committee assignments and representing the city if Mayor Ava Frisinger is absent.

Marts joined the council in January 2010 and succeeded longtime Councilman David Kappler. Butler joined the council a dozen years ago.

The shift represents the only change in council leadership since 2009, after former Councilman John Traeger succeeded then-Council President Maureen McCarry in the top spot. (Both officials have since left the council.)

The changeover occurred moments after municipal Judge N. Scott Stewart administered oaths to Butler, Councilman Joshua Schaer, Councilwoman Stacy Goodman and newcomer Paul Winterstein. (Voters elected the council members to the board in November.)

“This council has a track record of working very well together,” Marts said after the meeting. “I believe that we’ll work well together again this year. I don’t think we paper over differences. I think we work through differences.”

The aerospace engineer and Squak Mountain resident is poised to lead the council as members scrutinize the Central Issaquah Plan — a bold proposal to remake more than 900 acres in the business district — and adjust the 2012 municipal budget to reflect changes recommended in a study from Seattle consultant Moss Adams. The report called for employee layoffs and department reorganizations.

Fred Butler

“I’m going to take it slow at first,” Marts said. “There’s a lot to learn. It’s a privilege to have as a deputy somebody who will help me, who knows the history very well. I’m going to start slow and try to keep my ears bigger than my mouth for awhile.”

Butler also served as council president in the past.

On the council, Marts advocates for benchmarks to measure city services and efforts to improve transparency in city government.

“As an engineer, I look for metrics,” he said. “I will continue my efforts to look for metrics on how the city is doing and how we compare to other cities. I think that there’s a lot that we can learn from Kirkland, Redmond and some of the other surrounding cities. I will look to embrace the best of that for our council.”

The council president role is sometimes a springboard to higher office. Frisinger served as council president before a successful bid for mayor.

In the meantime, the council president serves as a key liaison between the legislative branch and staffers in the city administration.

“It’s something that when it works well makes overall communication between the mayor’s office and the legislative branch easier,” Frisinger said before the meeting. “If whomever is council leadership is good at encouraging council members to field questions to them, and then feels comfortable about asking the mayor’s office those questions, that makes for an enhanced working relationship. It makes for one in which there are fewer surprises.”

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