Sixteen apply for Kent City Council position ‘Pretty amazing’ leader says of interest

Sixteen residents have applied to the Kent City Council to fill the vacancy left by the April death of Councilman Bob O’Brien.

Sixteen residents have applied to the Kent City Council to fill the vacancy left by the April death of Councilman Bob O’Brien.

“That’s pretty amazing,” Councilman Les Thomas said of the number of applicants for the nonpartisan position. “I knew of two or three who were thinking about it. I was really surprised to see that amount.”

The Council has yet to decide on a process for selecting someone to fill the position, Thomas said in a phone interview Friday. The Council could decide to interview all the candidates or simply appoint someone from the applications.

Council President Debbie Raplee and Councilwoman Deborah Ranniger attended the International Making Cities Livable conference last week in Santa Fe, N.M., and were unavailable to meet with the rest of the Council last week to decide on how to choose a replacement.

“When they’re back in town, we’ll sit down and figure out the process,” Thomas said.

The applicants are:

Nicole Byzinker, Jamie Danielson, Ann M. Eggers, Mark Gagnon, Russell R. Hanscom, Dennis R. Higgins Jr., Jon K. Johnson, Janice Y. Lawrence, Devendra (David) Malik, Barbara A. Phillips, Dana Ralph, Michael S. Sealfon, Rashmee Sharma, Henrik O. Sortun, Harry R. Williams, and Gregory A. Worthing.

Gagnon is the only one among the 16 who ran for a Council position last November. Gagnon lost to Councilman Ron Harmon in the only contested race. Three Council members ran unopposed.

“It’s exciting people want to be a part of the decision-making,” Thomas said. “We’ve got a lot of work in front of us.”

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

Raplee had asked applicants to submit a letter explaining the reason for their interest in serving on the Council.

Eligible candidates must be registered voters and must have lived within the city limits for at least one year. Applicants had until May 30 to apply for the position.

Each Council member has received copies of the applications.

“They’re outstanding,” Thomas said of the 16 applicants. “Any one of them would be a good representative for the city of Kent.”

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

Under state law, if the Council decides to interview candidates, those interviews must be conducted in public, City Attorney Tom Brubaker told the Council at a May 20 workshop.

The Council can review applications in executive session, Brubaker said.

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 are paid $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.

O’Brien died April 30 after a long battle with cancer. He was 76. O’Brien, elected by voters to his first term in 2005, had about 18 months remaining in his four-year term.

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

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