In the next few weeks, council members will winnow that to a handful of finalists to fill at-large Position 6. On Tuesday, council members gave some indication of what they’re looking for in applicants.
To start with, the number of applicants is big, council members remarked at their study session Tuesday.
Councilman Marty Campbell said that in the seven years he’s been on the council, it’s the most they’ve received during a call to replace a resigning council member.
The last time the council had to fill an opening on the council, 44 people applied, he said.
While there are similar threads in what many council members said they want this time in a candidate — most noted the need for more female representation and wanted someone who can work well with others — there were differences, too.
Campbell and Mayor Marilyn Strickland said the chosen candidate should be someone who will serve for the remainder of the term — it ends this year — and not seek election to a full term in November.
“I’m looking for someone in an interim position who can come in and work one year and can work through that year and would not be seeking re-election,” Campbell said.
“There are 55 people who stepped forward in this process for that one seat. For us to pick the best out of the 55 and give them the incumbent seat advantage and not let the public weigh in on this, I think is a bit of a disservice.”
Others, including councilmen Ryan Mello and Anders Ibsen, said the huge swell of interest in the at-large seat won’t necessarily correlate to more people seeking the seat for a full term.
Elections are costly and time-consuming, and many qualified Tacomans who don’t have as much time or money could benefit from a leg up as the incumbent, they said.
“If we find someone who’s highly qualified and hits all the other marks and they might run, that’s not a deal breaker for me at all,” Mello said.
“In fact, I may want to give someone that experience that I think doesn’t have the resources to run or (doesn’t) come from privilege or power, or access to power to run. I think that might be a very good thing in order to fill out the diversity of perspective for this council.”
There largely was consensus for the need to encourage more diversity on the council, from demographic diversity to considering candidates with different life experiences who might come from underrepresented reaches of the city.
Councilman Joe Lonergan noted the seat was vacated by an African-American woman from South Tacoma.
“At the end of the day, use your conscience, use your judgment and think about the work ahead of us in 2017 to think about how we want to move forward,” Strickland said before the group convened to executive session to evaluate the qualifications of the applicants.
The Government Performance and Finance Committee will narrow candidates to a handful of finalists Jan. 18. Finalist interviews will take place during a City Council study session Jan. 24.
The council is expected to vote to fill the position at its meeting later that day.