Tacoma City Councilman Anders Ibsen will take a leave of absence from his elected post for at least 11 months to train as an officer in the U.S. Marine Corps reserves.
The first-term councilman hopes the council will appoint Jordan Rash, 30, to serve in his stead. Rash is the vice chairman of the North End Neighborhood Council and conservation director of Forterra, the organization formerly known as Cascade Land Conservancy.
Ibsen said he’s thought about signing up for military service for about a year, and that it’s taken a long time to get in physical shape to qualify for the Marine Corps.
He said his grandfather served in the Pacific Theater in World War II and an uncle served during the Vietnam War. His wife, Beverly, is an attorney in the Army National Guard as a first lieutenant.
“It’s the notion of helping people, making a difference, going above and beyond,” Ibsen said.
He said he sought advice from Robert Thoms, a fellow city councilman who serves as a commander in the Navy Reserve.
“I’m glad he’s found a way to serve,” Thoms said. “It’s a great opportunity for growth and leadership.”
City Councilman Ryan Mello said the clock was ticking if Ibsen wanted to serve in the military.
“I think he’s really made the case that now is the right time. He’s going to age out of the process soon,” Mello said. “If he doesn’t do it now he will never be able to serve his country in this way. ... You only live once, and service to country is really interesting to Anders.”
Ibsen said the cutoff age for an officer commission in the Marine Corps is 28. Ibsen is 27 now, but he will have to get a waiver to become a commissioned officer. He turns 28 two weeks before the commissioning ceremony. If all goes well, he will be commissioned as a second lieutenant.
Mello said it’s fitting for Ibsen to select his interim replacement.
“It’s taking a short-term leave. That’s what’s unique about it,” Mello said, adding that if he were in Ibsen’s place, “I would want someone with my values and my priorities. I think it’s a very appropriate request.”
Rash said he will do his best to serve District 1, which includes parts of the West and North End.
“While I would not be a proxy vote for councilman Ibsen, I would be doing my best to carry his specific issues forward and try to represent the district as best I can in his absence,” Rash said.
Ibsen’s training could take at least 11 months and as long as 13 months depending on which specialty he selects. By the time he rejoins the council in late 2014 or early 2015, he will have roughly a year left in his term.
State law provides for elected officials to take extended leaves for military service. According to a memo from the city attorney, Ibsen would forgo his council salary during his military training. While he would be entitled to receive benefits, such as vacation, insurance and retirement pay, Ibsen said he would give up all city benefits during his leave.
Once Ibsen finishes his training, he will serve the typical military reservist schedule of one weekend a month and two weeks per year, he said.
Ibsen said the council will discuss a resolution to appoint Rash during the Dec. 17 meeting. He said he has already talked with Rash and has brought him up to speed on the many issues important to him and the constituents of Dist. 1.
Ibsen also plans to stay in touch while gone. He will have limited access to email and telephone.
“I’ll still take calls. I will respond to emails,” he said.
Ibsen isn’t the first South Sound politician to step down temporarily for military service.
In 1944, Tacoma Mayor Harry P. Cain took a leave of absence to serve in the U.S. Army in North Africa, Sicily and Europe. He returned two and a half years later to resume his work as mayor. The interim mayor was Finance Commissioner C.V. Fawcett.
In 2003, the Lakewood City Council selected an interim member to fill then-councilman Doug Richardson’s post for up to a year. Richardson was an Army reserve colonel who was called to active duty.
And, in 1991, Army reservist and state Sen. Mike Kreidler, D-Olympia, was called to active duty in Operation Desert Shield. Kreidler asked that his wife, Lela Lopez Kreidler, serve in his post while he was away.
Kate Martin: 253-597-8542