Four Sitkans have applied to fill the assembly seat vacated last month by Phyllis Hackett, but the remaining assembly members don’t have to choose among just these candidates.
Discussion of the matter at the assembly’s last meeting indicated that there is already some disagreement over whether Sitka’s governing body would benefit more from a fresh voice, or someone tried and true.
The assembly will hold a special meeting Friday evening (1-2-15) at 5:30 PM in Harrigan Centennial Hall to select someone to serve the remaining 10 months of Phyllis Hackett’s term. Note: the meeting time was erroneously listed as 6pm in previous reports. Following the appointment of a new member, the assembly will discuss Sitka Community Hospital with CEO Jeff Comer, who has submitted his resignation after only three months on the job.
Read the letters of interest from the four applicants here.
Three of the four applicants who submitted letters of interest have prior assembly service. Thor Christianson has served three terms, Larry Crews has served one term, and Michelle Putz ran for and won a one-year term.
All three meet Mayor Mim McConnell’s criteria for someone to serve the next 9 months on the assembly, based on her remarks from the assembly’s last meeting on December 23.
“My recommendation is that we fill this seat – which will go until election time in October — with someone who has served on the assembly, or even a past administrator, if they were so inclined.”
The most immediate problems facing the assembly are financial: The hospital is running on money borrowed from municipal coffers, and may require some major restructuring in order to survive. The city’s streets are reverting to gravel for lack of a funding scheme, and the school district is pressed to meet new standards.
McConnell was being practical.
“Considering what we have going on in front of us this year, for the remainder of this term. I think it would be wise to have someone who doesn’t need to be brought up to speed.”
Member Steven Eisenbeisz was elected this past October, along with Tristan Guevin. He had a different opinion.
“I’d like to see this opened up to anyone interested in applying. Although I agree it’d be great if we had someone with experience and knowledge, by saying that we have to have that in order to function kind of downplays myself and Tristan (Guevin) who just got on, saying that we’re not capable of this, although the voters had said that we are.”
And so Eisenbeisz may prefer the fourth applicant, Orion Hughes-Knowles, who ran unsuccessfully for mayor against McConnell.
But, as Mayor McConnell responded, it really was just a difference of opinion.
McConnell – There was no slight intended to new assembly members. But having three new members on, and one who’s not been through training in Anchorage – it has an impact. That’s where I was coming from.
Eisenbeisz – Correct. And I see that as a positive, actually.
Actually, the assembly doesn’t have to pick any of the four, even though two of them were on the ballot last October. The rule requiring the assembly to fill a vacancy from the next-highest vote getter on the ballot was done away with in 2004, and it only applied to vacancies that occurred during the election – like when a current assembly member won the mayor’s seat.
The only qualifications for an assembly member are that he or she be a registered voter and have lived in Sitka for one year.