The Spokane City Council voted 5-1 Monday night to appoint Karen Stratton to a vacant seat representing the council's 3rd district, covering northwest Spokane.
The seat was vacated by Steve Salvatori, who left Spokane this summer to move to Texas. Because less than two years remained in his term, his replacement was appointed by the council instead of through a special election. Stratton, a current clerk in the Spokane City Clerk's Office who worked as a senior executive assistance to former Mayor Mary Verner and senior advisor to former Mayor Jim West, will face reelection next fall.
After the meeting, Stratton said she was "humbled" at the council's selection of her and excited to get started, especially on rallying public support for the park bond and street levy that will appear on this fall's ballot. "I feel like I'm just meant to do this," Stratton said. "And I'm ready to do it."
The council selected and interviewed five finalists from the 22 applicants. While Salvatori was generally known as a business-friendly conservative, the council's new left-leaning majority favored applicants who shared their views on some major issues of the day, including the ongoing battle with the county commissioners over the urban growth area. When challenged on the ideological divide recently, Council President Ben Stuckart pointed to recently elected Councilwoman Candace Mumm, a liberal who in November won the chance to represent District 3 with nearly 54 percent of the vote. Still, compared to other finalists, Stratton was among the least openly partisan during her interview for the job.
Before taking public testimony on the finalists, Stuckart said he wished the council wasn't even going through this process."It's very difficult to be in a position of choosing one person who's highly qualified over another person that's highly qualified," Stuckart said. Councilman Mike Allen, who introduced the motion to select Stratton, said he looked for the person who would be the "most effective" in the short time left in the term. Other councilmembers echoed that sentiment, lauding her experience in city administration.
While most councilmembers praised the process and the applicants' qualifications, Councilman Mike Fagan, who cast the lone "no" vote, warned citizens against the possible "veto-proof" wrath of a left-leaning majority that could vote to raise taxes. (While the seat is non-partisan, all of the five finalists were supported by the current liberal council majority.)
"I'm not so set and so rigid in my ways that I'm not going to collaborate," Fagan said. "I do wish we could retain some semblance of balance on this council."