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NL council to appoint new member July 29

Application deadline July 22

NORTH LIBERTY– The North Liberty City Council plans to appoint someone to its existing vacant seat on July 29.
The council agreed unanimously in its July 8 meeting to appoint a person to fill the vacancy left by Gerry Kuhl, who moved into the position of North Liberty’s mayor by council appointment after the death of Tom Salm in May.
Applications for the council seat will be taken until 4 p.m. July 22, giving the individual council members an opportunity to review all applications before a special meeting to be held at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 29. At that meeting, the group will collectively discuss applicants, and will nominate and vote on a final candidate during open session.
That is, unless someone files a petition to fill the vacancy by special election before then.
Any North Liberty resident can file a petition calling for a special election between now and 14 days after the appointment, or Aug. 12. Such a petition would require 27 valid signatures of eligible voters (15 percent of the numbers of voters in the last municipal election). A special election is estimated to cost around $6,000.
Discussion was minimal when council members voiced their reasons for appointing the position.
“It’s my understanding that if we put this on as a special election, we would also have to put the mayor on, so I think we’ve already committed to an appointment,” said council person Coleen Chipman.
“Can’t say it better than that,” said councilor Chris Hoffman, and Brian Wayson and Terry Donahue agreed.
Chipman encouraged anyone interested to submit an application.
“I would like to encourage women to fill out an application if they are interested. Ultimately, we are looking for the best candidate to serve on the council,” Chipman added.
There was brief debate about whether to interview applicants individually or use only the applications to make a decision, and whether or not the final appointment should be made in open session.
“That could be somewhat awkward,” suggested City Attorney Ryan Heiar.
However, City Attorney Scott Peterson advised the group that this would not be a protected reason to enter into closed session according to Iowa’s open meetings laws.
Hoffman reminded the group of Salm’s appointment as mayor and subsequent appointment of Natlie Wilkerson to council after the resignation of former mayor Dave Franker in 2007.
“The appointment of Natlie and for Tom as mayor was an open thing. It felt like when you came to that meeting that night, the council, right in front of you, was going to pick who that person was. Democracy in its most personal form.”
Hoffman said he preferred to conduct this appointment in similar fashion.
“I certainly want it to be a group effort between the four of us, but the interview process may be a bit cumbersome. If that meeting on (July) 29 is dedicated solely to this, we can have applicants here and ask questions of them and have that out in the public; I guess that’s a reasonable conversation to have out in the open.
Chipman offered to be a resource for those who might have questions, particularly about the level of commitment it takes to serve on council, and her fellow councilors concurred.
“I would encourage anyone interested in applying to call a current council member. I think it’s our perspective they are really interested in on the time commitment aspect of it. I’m more than happy to talk to anybody who has questions.”
Contact information for all current council members is available on the city website under the Government link at www.northlibertyiowa.org, and Chipman, Donahue and Wayson have home telephone numbers listed in the South Slope directory.