Wilsonville City Council pegs Joann Linville to fill open council seat while tensions about the process boil over
The end result — the selection of Joann Linville as the new Wilsonville city councilor — was deemed acceptable by the entire council during the Sept. 5 meeting.
Mayor Tim Knapp, Council President Kristin Akervall and Councilors Charlotte Lehan and Ben West all said Linville was one of their two preferred candidates among the five finalists to replace departed councilor Susie Stevens behind the dais. And the council unanimously approved her appointment.
But — as West laid out in a tirade during the deliberation — the selection process and the idea perceived by West that the rest of the councilors are biased against candidates with differing viewpoints were points of discord amongst the council.
More specifically, West was irate that his fellow councilors seemed not to prefer John Budiao, who narrowly finished third in a race for two open council seats in the November election and was one of the five finalists to place Stevens. West was also unhappy that Knapp and Akervall did not name Planning Commissioner Eric Postma one of the five finalists. West and Budiao formed an alliance during the 2018 election and were critical of some of the City's policies regarding growth and congestion.
West named Budiao as his top choice and Linville as his second choice while Knapp and Akervall named Linville as their top choice and Budget Committee member William Amadon as their second choice and Lehan named Linville as her top choice and mortgage lender Katie Hamm as her second choice.
"I really am appalled that not only would we take a large majority of the citizens of this city and shut them out, we won't even bring the top five candidates (in his opinion) before us to make a decision," West said. "For a council that always harps on process and has harped on many issues process, process, process, well this process from the beginning was flawed when we did not bring the top five candidates."
West added: "I think that sometimes we pretend to say that we like to have all different voices at the table on this (dias) but the truth is you don't want it unless it's a super minority and then it can have a small voice at the table."
Former councilor Scott Starr, who finished his final term in 2018, also wrote a letter read by Wilsonville resident Kate Johnson at the meeting castigating the decision not to name Postma, an attorney who was previously on the DRB and was appointed to the planning commission in 2011 and lost to Stevens in the 2012 council election, as a finalist. He also urged the council to interview Postma in public session before making the decision.
"While we were publicly introduced to the five finalists, I found it shocking that the most qualified candidate on paper was not a part of that mix," Starr said.
Starr also said he heard Knapp "verbally attacked" Postma during the initial interviews.
"This is not how a volunteer should be treated," Starr wrote. "Mr Postma's leadership with the chamber (Wilsonville Chamber of Commerce) and his unique experience on two city boards, planning and DRB, gave him more experience and understanding of issues that the city faces than all of the other candidates put together."
Knapp, for his part, felt that the process, where Knapp and Akervall interviewed 10 applicants and narrowed down the candidates to five before the four councilors voted on a replacement, was handled properly.
"The process has been more robust and intensive if you wish, more complete than any prior council process for appointment in Wilsonville that I'm aware of," he said. "I think we are likely to be the beneficiaries of the outcome of the process as the council moves forward."
West, however, said the council interviews, which took place Aug. 19, were proof that the five best candidates had not been selected finalists.
"Most candidates couldn't even fill a third of the time given to them," he said.
Linville is the chair of the City's Development Review Board A and has 35 years of experience working for community colleges. Akervall said she was impressed with Linville's knowledge of current City projects and that, unlike some other candidates, she expressed a willingness to listen. Lehan, for her part, said Linville's constituency was similar to Stevens, which she viewed as an important factor when replacing one councilor with another. Stevens used to work at Charbonneau Country Club while Linville lives in Charbonneau.
"I think she's an excellent selection because she's very experienced, she was brilliant in her interview I thought and very much like what I think Susie Stevens constituents would support," Lehan said.
As for Budiao, West and Doris Wehler— who testified during the meeting — viewed his narrow loss in the 2018 election as a strong reason why he would have made a quality appointment.
"I ask you to examine your hearts and your brains and put aside any personal biases that may exist and appoint John Budiao, the only candidate backed by 4,025 voters in the last election," Wehler said.
Wehler, Starr and Debi Laue, who also endorsed Budiao during the meeting, are trying to collect enough signatures to place a decision about whether to impose term limits on councilors, which would mean Lehan and Knapp's ousting once their term has concluded, on an upcoming ballot.
Lehan posited the opposite view about Budiao's election loss. She said the idea of appointing someone who voters did not elect was undesirable.
"It's your responsibility if you really think you're the person for the job you need to run again," Lehan said regarding Budiao. "With regard to Mr. Postma, it's even more the case because he directly ran against Susie Stevens and lost."
West also criticized Knapp and Lehan for being appointed to the council before running for election as an incumbent in the subsequent election. Lehan, however, retorted that Knapp was rejected the first time he applied before being chosen the second time.
"Our city has a history until maybe Scott Starr of appointing the next person to run for office as an incumbent and people won't even run for office and the voters have very little say in it," he said.
Lehan, however, retorted that Knapp was rejected the first time he applied before being chosen the second time.
Akervall, for her part, said the selection process was the most difficult decision she has faced while serving on the council.
"There's excellent people and there's many in that group I think we could see in this position serving in an excellent way," she said. "It's been a hard couple of days. It's something I've considered a lot. I want to express that I'm considering this very seriously and not lightly and really trying to listen through the process."
Despite his considerable frustration, West also complemented Linville and ultimately voted for her appointment.
"I think she's a great, compassionate heart. I think she will be a good person to fill the seat for Susie Stevens," he said. "I feel like, though, as a council we've failed Wilsonville in the process."
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