The Fife City Council has picked a veteran member from within its ranks to serve a two-year stint as mayor.
Rob Cerqui, 38, is a fourth-generation Fife-area farmer who was re-elected last fall and is entering his ninth year on the council.
But in the short term, he has to confront a charge of driving under the influence after his arrest during a traffic stop in Tacoma less than two months ago.
Cerqui pleaded not guilty in Pierce County District Court. The case was dismissed there to avoid a potential conflict of interest with the Pierce County prosecutor’s office, a county prosecutor said Wednesday. He said it will be refiled in Tacoma Municipal Court.
Cerqui declined comment on the case after Tuesday night’s council meeting, when he was elected mayor in a 4-3 vote. He said he looks forward to helping unite the older and newer parts of the city of 9,100 people.
“My main, number one goal as your mayor is to bring us all together” as a council and community, he said during the meeting.
Cerqui was picked for the post Tuesday with four council votes, including his own. Three members voted for Councilman Richard Godwin.
Godwin, also a council veteran, said he would have served in the post had he won enough votes. But he said he believes Cerqui will do a good job.
“I have confidence in him,” Godwin said.
He said the DUI case is a personal matter, not a city one, and shouldn’t affect Cerqui’s mayor duties.
Cerqui was arrested Nov. 20 after a Washington State Patrol trooper stopped him for a seatbelt violation and smelled intoxicants. Cerqui allegedly had watery and bloodshot eyes and slurred speech, and refused a voluntary field sobriety test and a breath sample.
When the trooper ordered Cerqui out of the car, he reportedly said, “I’m on the Fife City Council.” The trooper ordered the councilman out of his car three times before he complied, charging documents state.
The News Tribune could reach neither Cerqui nor his attorney for comment Wednesday. A search of Washington court records shows no other criminal charges against Cerqui.
Under Fife’s form of government, the mayor is a council member who takes on some extra, largely ceremonial duties, such as presiding over council meetings and attending community events.
The city manager oversees day-to-day city operations.
In other business Tuesday, the council amended City Manager Dave Zabell’s contract to allow him to live just outside Fife city limits.
Zabell came to Fife from the City of Yakima in 2011. His contract requires that he live within city limits, but he told the council he found a home in the city’s urban growth area that meets his family’s needs.
Employment contracts often stipulate that city managers live where they work. Tacoma’s next city manager, T.C. Broadnax, will live in Tacoma under a contract approved this week.
But some South Sound city councils, such as University Place, have acted to excuse their city managers from that requirement.
Fife’s last city manager lived in University Place.
Sara Schilling: 253-552-7058