Tacoma City Council picks lawyer to fill in during Ibsen’s military leave

Staff writerDecember 18, 2013 

The newest — albeit temporary — member of the Tacoma City Council is Joseph Lopez, an attorney who works for a Seattle law firm.

Council members unanimously selected Lopez on Tuesday to fill in for Councilman Anders Ibsen, who is taking a leave of absence to train as an officer in the Marine Corps reserves.

Lopez, 53, was picked over 14 other candidates who publicly interviewed Tuesday for the temporary position representing Tacoma’s District 1, which includes parts of the North and West ends.

The position comes with an annual salary of $42,411.

Council members said they picked Lopez partly because he understands the issues facing Tacoma residents who commute.

“He knows the plight of so many of our constituents who commute north or south or sometimes east for employment,” Councilman Ryan Mello said Tuesday.

Councilwoman Lauren Walker also said Lopez’s law background would bring a new perspective to the council.

“We haven’t had an attorney among us for a long time,” Walker said.

Lopez, who works as an attorney at Davis Wright Tremaine, called his appointment to the council “a complete thrill and an honor.”

During his candidate interview, Lopez talked about how Tacoma residents “need better and faster commuter options.”

He also said he thinks attracting more businesses and new residents to Tacoma will help solve some of the city’s budget issues.

“Over the long haul, we get out of this by bringing more businesses to Tacoma,” Lopez said. “That’s how we ultimately grow our way out of these problems.”

Lopez has served on the city’s Board of Ethics and is a member of the Tacoma Symphony board of directors. He spent time in the U.S. Navy Reserve as an attorney with the Judge Advocate General’s Corps.

Along with Lopez’s appointment Tuesday, the Tacoma City Council approved Ibsen taking a leave of absence of up to one year.

Ibsen will leave to begin military training in January. He originally identified his preferred replacement as Jordan Rash, the conservation director at Forterra and the vice chairman of the North End Neighborhood Council.

But council members opted to have a public application process and ultimately passed over Rash in favor of Lopez.

Other applicants for the position included former Tacoma Mayor Harold Moss, former City Councilman Spiro Manthou and Karen Smitherman, Ibsen’s opponent in the 2011 general election.

Melissa Santos: 360-357-0209 melissa.santos@ thenewstribune.com

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