Harrell announces process for appointing new Council member

This afternoon Council President Bruce Harrell announced the process he intends to use for the Council to appoint a new City Council member to replace Mayor Tim Burgess.

Burgess’ seat opened up when his colleagues on the Council voted to appoint him Mayor, after Harrell declined to continue serving in that capacity. The Council has twenty days to appoint a new Council member (up to October 8th); if they fail to do so, they are required to meet every day and conduct a vote until a Council member is selected.

Council member Sawant and a group of community activists have been urging the Council to conduct an open process with community involvement.  Other Council members, most notably Johnson and Harrell, have argued that the Council should make a speedier appointment given that the 2018 budget development process has already begun and the appointee’s term will only extend until the end of November. The City Charter is largely silent on the process the Council shall use to fill a vacancy, other than the deadline and that the appointment requires five votes.

Harrell’s announcement lays out an open, transparent process “in the spirit of true democracy,” along the lines of what Sawant and others asked for. It uses the full twenty days to solicit and review applications and allow both the public and Council members to meet and converse with the applicants.

Here’s the timeline for the selection process as announced today:

  • Applications can be submitted between September 25 and October 1. (submission details below)
  • On October 3, the City Clerk will deliver the applications to the Council members and also post them online so that members of the public can review them and submit comments.
  • Between October 2 and October 5, two community forums will be scheduled to allow members of the public to ask questions of the applicants.  Council members will also be able to schedule meetings with applicants during those days to interview them.
  • On October 4 at 5pm, there will be a public hearing in which community members may speak to the Council regarding selecting a new Council member.
  • On the morning of October 5, the Council members will meet in closed “executive session” to discuss the applicants.
  • At 2pm on Friday, October 6, the Full Council will meet to vote on appointing a Council member to fill the open seat.

Anyone who is a citizen of the United States and a registered voter in Seattle can apply to be considered for the Council position. Applications will be accepted by email, fax, US mail, or in person. Applicants must submit a resume and cover letter, along with an option to provide three references or reference letters.

As for the selection criteria, Harrell’s announcement states:

Candidates for appointment should demonstrate an understanding of Seattle city government operations, budgeting, and legislative processes; demonstrate knowledge of the public policy issues associated with potential Committee assignments; demonstrate a commitment to social justice and the ability to communicate and collaborate effectively across cultures and with diverse populations; and desire to serve the people of Seattle as a public official.

Finalists will be selected based on their qualifications and commitment to public service, understanding of city government and the public policy issues associated with the Council’s priorities; and their desire to serve the people of Seattle and assume the responsibilities and accountability inherent in the work of a Councilmember.

Beginning on September 25, you can find all the details on how to apply here.