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...And the field narrows for vacant Council spot

Officials pick top seven

The Kent City Council picked seven finalists on Tuesday for its vacant Council position.

Four women and three men remain under consideration to fill the vacancy left by the April 30 death of Councilman Bob O’Brien.

The finalists are Nicole Byzinker, Jamie Danielson, Dana Ralph, Rashmee Sharma, Dennis R. Higgins Jr., Jon K. Johnson and Michael Sealfon.

Council members reviewed 15 applications in executive session during Tuesday’s Council meeting, before narrowing the field to seven.

“It was pretty tough,” Council President Debbie Raplee said in a phone interview Wednesday about paring down the list. “They were all good candidates, involved in the community and had good experience. With a huge number, we had to get it down to a manageable number.”

The seven finalists will be interviewed starting 5:30 p.m. July 8 at a City Council special meeting at City Hall, Raplee said. As required by state law, the interviews will be conducted in public.

Raplee said each interview will last about 15 to 20 minutes. Candidates will be asked to wait outside of Council Chambers until their assigned interview time.

“At the end, we will go into executive session,” Raplee said. “Then we will come out (of executive session) and we will select that night.”

The appointed resident will be sworn into office at the beginning of the July 15 Council meeting and start work that evening.

The Council has 90 days (until July 30) under state law to fill the vacancy.

The person appointed by the Council will serve until an election is takes place in November 2009. The appointed Council member also would be eligible to run for the position. The elected individual would take office as soon as the election is certified.

Applicants had to submit a letter by May 30 to Raplee that explained the reasons they wanted to serve on the Council. To be eligible, candidates must be registered voters and have lived within the city limits for at least one year.

“Some of it was based on what we knew about them,” Raplee said of cutting the list. “A lot we didn’t know that much about, so we looked at their letters and resumes.”

The Council wants to find out more about the final seven. During the interviews, candidates will be asked for a synopsis about themselves and then answer questions from Council members.

It takes a simple majority vote by the Council to appoint a replacement. A 3-3 vote would be broken by Mayor Suzette Cooke.

Council members earn $1,146 per month for the part-time positions. The Council meets on the first and third Tuesdays of each month. Council members also serve on at least two city committees, which have regular meetings.

O’Brien died after a long battle with cancer, at the age of 76. He had about 18 months remaining in his four-year term.

The current six Council members are Raplee, Ron Harmon, Deborah Ranniger, Les Thomas, Elizabeth Albertson and Tim Clark.

Contact Steve Hunter at 253-872-6600, ext. 5052 or shunter@reporternewspapers.com.

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