Politics & Government

Short-timer leaving Tacoma City Council

Nine weeks ago, Joe Lopez was just a resident of Tacoma.

Next week, after temporarily filling a City Council seat for one month, he will become such again.

“It’s been a really interesting, sort of whirlwind experience,” Lopez said Monday.

He temporarily filled the District 1 City Council seat of Anders Ibsen, who took a leave of absence to pursue military training with the U.S. Marine Corps.

Ibsen had hoped to become an officer in the Reserves and had said training could take him away from his elected duties for up to a year. But after just three weeks of training, Ibsen said he was sent home after medical staff determined he was not physically qualified to continue training.

Lopez said he and his wife, Evelyn, had talked about him running for council but did not anticipate an opportunity arising so soon. Since his appointment, Lopez has been meeting residents of District 1 and attending meetings. He said he got a lot of feedback from area residents about what they wanted to see happen in District 1.

His only regret? “There wasn’t really a lot of time to do anything with it,” Lopez said.

Lopez may hold the record for shortest term as a City Council member. He was officially sworn in Dec. 27. Tuesday will be Lopez’s last council meeting, but he technically will remain a member of the council through Monday – 45 days from start to finish. Ibsen returns Feb. 11.

Former Mayor Bill Baarsma said only one other person is likely to have had a shorter term — former Mayor Jack Hyde, who served 17 days in the post before he died in 1994.

Even if he had known the post would last for only a month, Lopez said he still would have seized the opportunity. Now he says his challenge is to figure out how to take the “enhanced profile” he has been given and “really make something of it.”

Is he planning to run for election to the council?

“The earliest there would be a City Council election is November 2015. Obviously there is no need to make any snap decisions right now,” Lopez said.