Council asks – who will fill Pavone’s seat?

City Council discusses future appointments after election

After the election was certified Nov. 26, Armondo Pavone is now Renton’s mayor-elect. He will also need to resign from the city council, leaving the remaining councilmembers to decide how they will fill the seat.

Seats appointed by councilmembers have historically resulted in the candidate being later elected during the next election cycle, including councilmember Ruth Pérez. She said the appointment process was long and stressful, and included herself and 15 other candidates being interviewed during a broadcasted council meeting.

“It was really nerve-racking,” Pérez said to other councilmembers at the Nov. 18 Committee of the Whole.

Councilmembers who interviewed Pérez and other applicants for that position also want to find a faster way to handle the interview process. It’s been a “horrendous experience” for the council, public and candidates in the past, Council President Don Persson said.

So during a policy discussion at the committee meeting, the council decided only six candidates from the applicant pool will be interviewed during the public meeting, each through nomination by one councilmember.

Any number of applicants will be able to apply, as long as they are eligible to vote and have lived within Renton city limits for at least six months. The council will then have an executive session, which is not public, where they will discuss the merits of different candidates. After that discussion, they will use a public council meeting to decide on candidates to be interviewed. Each councilmember will create a list of their top candidates, and go in random order to give a nomination.

Councilmember Ryan McIrvin had some hesitation on holding the application conversations in executive session; he said he wants the process to appear as transparent as possible. According to council policy, all applicant discussions must be held in a regular council session, but the policy language doesn’t specify if it can or cannot be during an executive session.

Other councilmembers said holding the discussions in executive session allows for an easier narrowing of the applicants. Councilmember Ed Prince also added other cities like Kent and Redmond have these discussions in an executive session.

During the public interviews, Pérez also suggested the applicants should have a waiting room before going to council chambers, so some candidates don’t have more time to prepare for the questions than others. Councilmembers also discussed clarifying they that will not have any one-on-one meetings related to the appointment process with applicants.

Persson brought the issue f Pavone’s seat to Committee of the Whole in the council conference room and then moved the meeting to the council chambers for presentations from King County Metro. While meetings in the council chambers are video recorded and televised, conference room meetings are audio recorded and available at rentonwa.gov. Persson said he had heard a lot of speculation about how the city council would be conducting the appointment process.

“There’s a lot of rumors going around about what we’re going to do. I want to clarify the council doesn’t know what the heck they’re going to do, that’s why we’re (having this meeting.)” Persson said.

Because of the recent November election, some people thought that the council would only be considering applicants who had previously run for a council seat. Persson clarified at the Committee of the Whole meeting that no such process had been decided, and councilmembers at the meeting expressed opposition to limiting the pool of candidates.

Prince said they never know who they’re going to like until seeing the resumes, and thought they would get public backlash by limiting who can apply.

Council also suggested creating a list of questions for applicants, to give them more information before selecting who to interview. Prince said it’s only fair that councilmember-elects Valerie O’Halloran and Kim-Khanh Van get to help decide on the list of questions. He suggested that not be decided until they are both on the council.

Pavone’s vacancy is not official yet. Council cannot start requesting applications until Pavone tenders his resignation, at the start of January, according to a city attorney at the committee meeting. The application posting will include any requirements for interested persons, including possible questions. Councilmembers hope to have the policy changed by the Dec. 9 council meeting. More information on the process will be available to interested candidates at the city clerk’s office.

Photo courtesy of Michelle Zimmerman. Mayor-elect Armondo Pavone and his family on election night.

Photo courtesy of Michelle Zimmerman. Mayor-elect Armondo Pavone and his family on election night.

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