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Newcomer to fill seat

SOLON– Jessie Ehlinger honestly did not expect to be appointed.
Ehlinger, 27, was selected last week to fill the Solon City Council vacancy created by the election of Cami Rasmussen as mayor.
“I knew I wanted to become more involved with the functionality and logistics of the city,” Ehlinger noted in an email Friday. “So I applied to be on the library board. When Cami was elected mayor and her seat became available, I decided to show my interest in this position on city council.”
Ehlinger, Duane TePoel and general election runner-up Chuck Panzer responded to the city’s request for applicants to fill the remaining two years of Rasmussen’s term.
“Since it was my first show of interest, it seemed unlikely for me to become appointed,” Ehlinger said in her email. “But I wanted the council and the city to know I was interested, excited and energetic about Solon’s future. I was shocked and extremely excited to be appointed knowing that this was a unique opportunity for Solon.”
A native of Guttenberg, Ehlinger and her husband Travis have been residents of Solon for nearly two years. They have a one-year-old son, Carson.
Filling the vacancy was the first action item for the Jan. 4 council meeting, the first for Mayor Rasmussen and for council member Ron Herdliska, both elected in November.
Herdliska made the motion to appoint Ehlinger, it was seconded by Kunkel and with no discussion, the council voted unanimously in approval. Ehlinger took the oath of office and was seated with the council. Rasmussen and Herdliska were sworn into office Tuesday morning, Jan. 3, at Solon City Hall. Re-elected incumbent Brad Kunkel took his oath at the council meeting.
“I didn’t realize it would go that quickly,” Herdliska said Friday of the vote.
Gender equity and a youthful slant made Ehlinger the right choice, he said. “I look at her and she’s got a lot of vim and vigor and that’s what we really need right now,” Herdliska observed.
He said he visited with Ehlinger after the Dec. 21 council meeting attended by all three applicants, but didn’t discuss his thoughts with any other council members.
Kunkel also cited Ehlinger’s gender and youth as deciding factors. “I feel that by appointing JessIe to the council we, as a governing body, could best reflect the population of Solon,” Kunkel stated in an email over the weekend. “Each Council Member has a unique set of skill and experiences I look forward to having a fresh perspective in future meetings.”
As a candidate for council, Kunkel said he knew very little about city government but was committed to learn. “Given the three, I thought, ‘Take a chance on the new person,’” he said.
Panzer, who garnered 156 votes in the Nov. 8 city election, currently serves on the Solon Public Library Board and previously served on the Solon Parks and Recreation Commission and the Solon Board of Adjustment. He is a 30-year member of the Solon American Legion and served as a commission member and chair of Johnson County Veterans Affairs.
TePoel, in his letter of interest to the city, cited his experience as a builder as an asset in planning, zoning and code issues.
Ehlinger admittedly has no experience in city government, but she is passionate about trying.
“I want what’s best for Solon and all the residents,” she said. “Since I haven’t been a resident of Solon for very long, I don’t have any hidden agendas. I’ll come into it with an open mind to help in any way I can.”
According to City Administrator Cassandra Lippincott, the city council’s appointment can be challenged by petition within 14 days of the decision.