Cascade Locks council creates plan to fill vacancies

October 8, 2011

Let the applications begin.

The process of filling out the Cascade Locks City Council began Thursday, the first day residents could apply for four vacancies on the council.

The decision was made Monday by the skeleton crew City Council of Tom Cramblett, Lance Masters and Eva Zerfing.

The deadline to apply is Oct. 13 at 5 p.m. Application forms are available at City Hall; interested registered voters living inside city limits will need to fill out a seven-question application.

On Oct. 17 the council will review those applications and decide on a set of questions to ask the applicants. The interviews will take place on Oct. 24. If more time is needed, the council can continue the meeting, according to interim city administrator Paul Koch.

Any eligible person filling out an application will be interviewed. There will be no pre-screening of applicants.

It took about 90 minutes, with moments of mild dissension, for council to arrive Monday at the plan for filling the council vacancies.

The vacancies were caused by the Sept. 20 vote of recall against former council members Kevin Benson, Tiffany Pruit and Don Haight, and former Mayor George Fischer. Hood River County certified the election on Oct. 3, giving city staff and the remaining three councilors the go-ahead to start the appointment process. The appointees will serve until the November 2012 general election.

Applicants will be asked why they want to serve, to list critical issues they feel face the city, and give ideas for helping the city "work together for the good of the community."

Application questions also include description of boards and committees served on in the past and other relevant service.

Masters said that the questions ignored "the elephant in the room," referring to budget problems and recent divisiveness.

"I want us to ask what specific skills people have to help us get out of this predicament; to ask how we got there and for how we can move forward," Masters said.

Cramblett said he thought the other questions sufficiently addressed it, and said "I don't think we need to be adding more questions."

At Masters' urging, the council amended the selection process to interviewing all candidates in an open meeting, rather than having the existing council screen any applicants.

"I'm having a hard time with how it would be an open and transparent process if we don't do that," Masters said.

Cramblett said he agreed but said the council should not put to much emphasis on how much experience applicants have had.

"We, the 'last man standing,' might not have had as much experience, when we started (on council) as we're asking of them. A lot of people who had a lot of experience on boards and committees are who got us into this. I want to make sure we don't set it up where a person who can contribute, with a reasonable vision and reasonable ideas, isn't left out because they haven't served on a lot of things," said Cramblett.

In the end, the council agreed to rephrase the question to read, "What skills do you have to help us move out of the current situation and in a positive direction?"

There was a split in the first decision made by the three councilors: a vote at the start of the meeting on who would be presiding officer, in the absence of a mayor, who usually runs the meetings. Cramblett was voted presiding officer, though Koch and City Attorney Alex Sosnkowski helped direct the conversation.

Zerfing nominated Cramblett, the councilor with seniority, and when Masters remained silent during the call for a second, Cramblett seconded his own nomination. He and Zerfing voted for the motion, and Masters opposed it.

But that action item won't stay in effect for long: by late October or early November, the council will have a full complement again. Also, Cramblett will not be at City Hall for the Oct. 17 meeting, but attending on the phone while away on business, meaning either Masters of Zerfing will be called upon to preside.

"So, Cascade Locks," Cramblett said. "You've got a week to get the applications and get them filled out."

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