The Gig Harbor City Council chamber was buzzing Monday, filled with more than 100 residents eager to wish the current administration farewell and to witness the newly appointed Council member be sworn in.
The Council chose Spencer Hutchins to fill the seat vacated by Rahna Lovorich, who unexpectedly resigned in November.
Hutchins, a team leader with Keller Williams West Sound Realty, was chosen after an hour of interviews and discussion.
Candidates had to turn in resumes and letters of interest to the city by Dec. 1.
The candidates included Hutchins, Dave Christian, Angela Cochran, David Gillman, Jim Hagman, Elizabeth Kreiselmaier, Tracie Markley, Les McCallum, Bizhan Nasseh, Rick Offner and Sarah Van Nuis.
All of the candidates were given a list of questions before the public meeting and during the meeting they were given three minutes to introduce themselves.
“I was asked about how we can thoroughly evaluate the candidates in three minutes,” Council member Paul Kadzik said. “And really we can’t. But we have had about 10 days with their resumes.”
Kadzik said he did not expect to get even half the number of resumes by the Dec. 1 deadline, which made him feel hopeful for the future of city government in Gig Harbor. There were originally 12 candidates but one dropped out of the selection process hours before the interview.
Among the candidates included retired military, planning commission members, corrections officers, parents and teachers.
The Council was also given the chance to ask candidates questions on the spot, but almost no questions were asked during the interview process. The only question that was given to each candidate was from Councilmember Tim Payne. Payne asked each candidate if they would be interested in other commissions, committees or city organizations if they were not selected for the vacant Council seat.
After questioning, the City Council went into executive session for about 20 minutes to discuss its choices.
During the interview, Hutchins said being a Council member is an “obligation of service,” and he feels ready to take on the responsibility.
“I love Gig Harbor,” Hutchins said. “I don’t remember a time before Gig Harbor. It’s where my wife and I chose to build a family and where I chose to build a business. I have been very glad to contribute on the planning commission. We have seen the growth, the tension and some of the conflict. These are challenging times in our city. I have voted for changes that would allow for development and that would not allow for development. I want to serve with an even hand and mind.”
Kreiselmaier told the Council she was interested in serving because she loves the town’s natural beauty and history. She considered joining the Council before but wanted to wait until her son was older.
“Gig Harbor faces difficult and interrelated challenges in the many years to come,” Kreiselmaier said. “I don’t see growth as a binary choice of stop or go fast.”
Offner lost to Jeni Woock in the primary election and felt this was another opportunity to address issues he finds most important to the city.
“I think my message resonated with the community,” Offner said. “Although I was disappointed in the outcome, it has not diminished my interest. Since moving to Gig Harbor I have been active in the community. I follow the issues closely that are before the Council.”
After executive session, city code instructed the Council to proceed with a round of voting to help narrow down candidates until a final candidate was chosen.
Councilman Ken Malich nominated Kreiselmaier and Councilman Casey Arbenz nominated Hutchins for the seat. The first nominee to reach four votes from the Council would be automatically appointed, according to city code.
Hutchins received the position with a 4-0 vote. Malich did not vote for Hutchins.
Hutchins was then sworn in by Mayor Jill Guernsey.
“I am grateful for the confidence placed in me,” Hutchinson said after he took his seat. Hutchins spent the rest of the meeting with the Council.
He will complete Lovrovich’s term, until December 2019, where then he can choose to run for re-election.
City says goodbye to mayor, council members
Before the City Council meeting, a special reception was held to say goodbye to Guernsey, Kadzik, Payne, Lovorich and Ekberg.
A new mayor and three new council members will begin their terms in January, making the recent City Council meeting the last for many.
“I have been to thousands of these,” Ekberg said. “But what really makes a city great is its staff. They are here day in and day out and I want to thank them.”
Ekberg, Guernsey, Kadzik and Payne were all given tokens of appreciation from the city and will serve in their seats for the last time during a special council meeting on Dec. 18.