Todd Jones to serve as interim West Linn city councilor
This story was updated at 9:22 p.m. Feb. 22.
West Linn High School teacher Todd Jones will serve for the next two months as the newest West Linn city councilor, and then maybe an additional year and a half after that.
After operating as a four-councilor body for the past two months, the council appointed Jones as an interim councilor to serve until May's election at its meeting Monday, Feb. 22.
Jones also recently filed to run in May's election.
The city received 10 applications for the interim councilor position, though four applicants eventually withdrew or were deemed ineligible for the role.
City councilors interviewed each candidate and solicited feedback from residents after posting the applications to the city's website.
The decision on the appointment had been twice delayed — first at the council's Feb. 8 meeting after public comments concerning the transparency of the appointment process, and again last week when the council's meeting was postponed due to the snow and ice storm.
Some residents may have expected the decision to be postponed yet again as the city noted on its website, on social media and on the meeting agenda that the discussion and vote on the interim appointment would take place March 1 if West Linn residents were still without power Feb. 22. As of 8 p.m. Feb. 22, over 600 West Linn residents were still without power, according to PGE's estimates. Earlier in the meeting, Mayor Jules Walters mentioned several hundred residents who were still without power.
One public commenter, CJ Koll, pointed this out to the council, but councilors continued with the conversation and vote nonetheless.
After the meeting, Walters told the Tidings that the council felt a large enough majority of residents had power that it was appropriate to go forward with the discussion.
Councilor Rory Bialostosky said he felt the council could move forward after receiving so much community input on the appointment. By Walters' estimate, more than 50 citizens submitted feedback on the applicants.
Bialostosky mentioned his confidence in Jones, particularly his experience on the citizen's budget committee. Bialstosky mentioned that the budget process would weigh heavily on the council's agenda in coming months and he believed Jones' experience would be a valuable asset to the council.
Walters shared Bialostosky's favor of Jones, though she also expressed support for applicant Kim Bria. Walters noted Bria also had a wealth of valuable experience and had come in third in November's council elections.
"We have thousands of people who voted for her and I think she would be an excellent candidate as well," Walters said.
The mayor also said she was impressed with the interviews of each applicant.
Councilor Mary Baumgardner expressed reservations about the council deciding who would serve. She said it would be more democratic to just let voters decide in May.
Walters pointed out language in the City Charter that states the council "shall" fill a vacancy with an interim appointment. City Attorney Tim Ramis said there was precedent for the council to either fill and not fill the vacancy and noted that it was ultimately up to the council to interpret the meaning of the charter.
Councilor Bill Relyea also voiced concern that appointing an interim councilor who was also running in the May election might unfairly influence the vote as incumbents are typically more successful in elections.
Bialostosky pointed out that the last time an interim councilor ran for election, in 2010, they were defeated.
Baumgardner additionally noted her concern over having a majority of council residing in one neighborhood, saying she, Bialostosky, Jones and Bria all live in the Willamette neighborhood. She voiced support for Joan Hallinan, who she said had valuable experience like Jones and Bria but "can represent a different area of West Linn."
Walters said that if the council wanted to discuss councilors representing certain districts at a future meeting, they could do that, but that was not a factor in the council's structure per the charter.
"To me the charter is clear on the action we are to take and I'm not understanding the hesitancy on that," Walters said. "It's our duty to make the tough decisions."
After a motion from Bialostosky to appoint Jones to the position, the council voted 3-1 to do just that, with Baumgardner providing the lone "no" vote.
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