David Schmalz here, thinking about political appointments, which have become a hot topic of late as local elected officials wrangle for coveted board seats on various local agencies.
And while many of those dramas—or non-dramas, in some cases—have played out already, that is not so in Del Rey Oaks, where tonight, the City Council will meet at 6pm to consider appointing someone to fill the council seat vacated by Scott Donaldson, who served on the council for two years before unseating former mayor Alison Kerr last November with two years still left on his term.
On Jan. 5, the council voted unanimously (4-0) to move forward with filling that seat through an appointment process, but with a caveat: Councilmember John Uy wanted there to be some kind of rubric by which to judge the applicants, so that there was transparency in the decision.
They held a special meeting Jan. 11 to decide on that rubric. The application window for prospective council members was to close Jan. 18 at noon, so time was of the essence—per state election law, by Feb. 10 (60 days after Donaldson was sworn in, on Dec. 13), the council must either call a special election that would occur next November, or appoint someone.
Which is where this gets interesting. There’s a decent chance a majority of the four-member council won’t be able to agree on a candidate before that deadline, in which case, it would have to be filled by popular vote. And that vote wouldn’t take place until almost 10 months from now.
And the “rubric” didn’t so much turn out to be a rubric, but a set of four questions which councilmember Kim Shirley took from a much larger set of questions Monterey City Council used to fill a vacant council seat in December. Each councilmember will ask each applicant one of those questions, after they give their initial pitch.
Six Del Rey Oaks residents applied for the seat, and most have experience on the city’s planning commission, and a few on City Council. They are, in alphabetical order: Dennis Allion, Michael Burger, Andrew Clarke, Louise Goetzelt, Gary Kreeger and Bill Ragsdale-Cronin.
The reason I think the process might end up in a deadlock is because like no other local city, Del Rey Oaks has become particularly polarized in recent years, in some ways reflecting the nation at large.
That being the case, I’m not sure there is any candidate that three or four council members will support.
City Manager John Guertin says that if the council can’t agree on who to appoint, they would need to have a special meeting before the deadline where they could try again. If they can’t agree then, the seat will remain open and the council will have to call for a special election in November.
So unless a consensus can be reached at tonight’s meeting to appoint a new councilmember—and that’s a big if, in my opinion—how much business the city can get done in the next 10 months will be something to keep an eye on.