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Temporary paid gig available on Tacoma City Council; perks include influence

Tacoma City Council member Robert Thoms is deploying to Afghanistan next month. The City Council has decided to appoint a temporary replacement while he’s away.
Tacoma City Council member Robert Thoms is deploying to Afghanistan next month. The City Council has decided to appoint a temporary replacement while he’s away. News Tribune file photo

The Tacoma City Council will appoint a temporary replacement for Councilman Robert Thoms after all.

Thoms, a commander with the U.S. Navy Reserves, was involuntarily recalled to active duty and will deploy to Afghanistan for six months. But he will be gone for closer to seven months, because he’ll first go to training in early March before shipping overseas.

The application process for District 2 residents who want to temporarily fill in for Thoms will open Feb. 15 and close on Feb. 22. Finalists will address the City Council at its study session on March 6, Mayor Victoria Woodards said Tuesday. At the council’s evening meeting later that day, it could consider motions to appoint an interim District 2 representative. That person could be sworn in the following day.

“It’s going to be a quick-moving time line. We want to make sure we get someone appointed, so, when councilmember Thoms leaves the state of Washington on March 4, we’ll have someone who will be able to stand in for him,” Woodards said.

The last time the City Council moved to appoint someone to fill an empty spot, that spot had been permanently vacated by Woodards, who left her seat as an at-large councilwoman a year early to run for mayor, a nod to the city’s term limits law. At that time, 55 people applied to fill Woodards’ seat, and several rounds of interviews were held. The whole process took nearly a month.

This time, they’ll move more quickly, the council said. Since Thoms is only taking a leave of absence for his military service, he is entitled to full pay and benefits while he’s gone, city attorney Bill Fosbre said. Whoever is appointed to fill in for Thoms also will be paid.

Thoms will be able to vote on his replacement, “assuming the timing and logistics work out,” Fosbre said in an email.

Councilman Conor McCarthy said he hoped the council will choose someone who shares Thoms’ priorities.

“The voters decide who has the privilege to serve you on the City Council, and as you’re aware, council member Thoms just won a contested election, so we want to make sure that in this short period that council member Thoms is gone we’re appointing someone who shares his priorities, his values, his commitment to District 2,” McCarthy said.

Woodards said the application for residents of District 2 (which includes Northeast Tacoma, the Tideflats, downtown and the Stadium district) who want to step in for Thoms will be on the city’s website on Feb. 15. Those interested can contact the city clerk’s office at (253) 591-5505 for more information.

Candice Ruud: 253-597-8441, @candiceruud

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