The Bend City Council will wait at least two more days to select the councilor who will finish the last two years of Sally Russell’s council term.
Councilors have about 18 days left to fill the vacancy created when Russell was sworn in after the mayoral election. After interviewing six finalists for the position Monday, councilors agreed they couldn’t reach a decision that night.
“I think there was some really good discussion,” Mayor Pro Tem Bruce Abernethy said. “We have some time to sleep on it.”
Finalists Kathy Austin, James Dorofi and Kerani Mitchell received the most support when the six sitting councilors picked their top three candidates. Russell, Abernethy, and councilors Gena Goodman-Campbell and Barb Campbell picked Austin, an architect and member of the city’s affordable housing advisory committee. Goodman-Campbell, Campbell and Russell favored Dorofi, the chairman of the Old Farm District Neighborhood Association. Goodman-Campbell, Campbell and Abernethy preferred Mitchell, an accounting associate at a nonprofit.
Councilor Justin Livingston said he wouldn’t support any of the top three candidates because he said they would sway the balance of the City Council. For the past two years, the council has contained three members who lean right and four who lean left. After the November election, it shifted to a 4-2 balance that favors liberals.
“We’ve been fairly equally separated ideologically, and I think that came together in the past few years,” Livingston said.
He supported Andrew Davis, who ran for the open council seat won by Goodman-Campbell, Chuck Allen, a retired corporate executive, and Chris Piper, vice president of business development at Cleveland-based marketing company Proforma. Russell also supported Allen, and Abernethy supported Davis.
Councilor Bill Moseley said he was not willing to vote for any of the candidates. He said he’d consider changing his mind by Wednesday’s council meeting, but he thought the council shouldn’t appoint a replacement.
“This is a decision and choice that should be made by voters,” he said.
The city’s charter requires the council to fill a vacancy within 30 days, and if it can’t, the vacancy will be filled at the next available election.
Russell said it was a greater benefit to bring on a city councilor who can participate in a goal-setting and budget-setting during the next few months, rather than waiting until the May election.
“I feel a responsibility to make a decision for the community as a whole, and I think in an elected position there’s a greater opportunity to pick someone who represents the community as a whole,” Russell said.
The City Council received 36 applications for the open seat, though only 33 of those applicants had lived within Bend city limits for the required year prior to appointment. Last week, the council selected seven finalists, six of whom participated in roughly 25-minute interviews Monday. The other finalist, Kori Sparks, withdrew her application.
Before the interviews, councilors noted the possible conflicts they could have. Allen gave Russell’s campaign two cash contributions of $500, according to campaign finance records filed with the Oregon Secretary of State. Livingston said he gave Davis $100. His contribution doesn’t appear in campaign finance records because only contributions of more than $100 are reported with names attached.
After about an hour of sometimes tense debate, only two of the council hopefuls remained in the room: Davis and Allen. Abernethy, addressing them and other candidates who might be watching a livestream at home, said every candidate was a “phenomenal puzzle piece.”
“The analogy I have in my mind is of a puzzle,” he said. “The City Council as a whole is a puzzle and there’s a piece missing.”
Wednesday’s meeting starts at 7 p.m. in council chambers at City Hall.
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