Westminster’s city councilors will narrow their focus as they work to replace the last two of three council colleagues who stepped down in the wake of November’s election. Councilors decided Jan. …
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Westminster’s city councilors will narrow their focus as they work to replace the last two of three council colleagues who stepped down in the wake of November’s election.
Councilors decided Jan. 7 to broaden the written portion of the application to replace former Councilors Shannon Bird and Emma Pinter. Candidates had until Jan. 10 to answer those questions or amend their answers if they have applied before.
Councilors reviewed those applications over the weekend, and were scheduled to meet Jan. 14 to select up to 25 candidates to come in for interviews between Jan. 17 and 26.
Councilors are scheduled to replace the two empty seats at the Jan. 28 meeting.
According to the charter, they have 30 days to fill those seats.
Bird resigned her Westminster seat Jan. 3 as she was sworn in as Colorado State Representative. Pinter resigned at the beginning of the Jan. 7 meeting, the night before she was scheduled to be sworn in as a Adams County Commissioner.
Councilors agreed that the process to replace the pair would be similar to the one they relied on last month to replace former councilor and Mayor pro tem Maria De Cambra. She stepped down Dec. 3 to take a position with newly elected Colorado Governor Jared Polis.
More than 60 residents filled out an application to fill De Cambra’s chair, and councilors interviewed 45 candidates over 16 hours on Dec. 13-16.
The eventually selected 16-year Westminster resident and Thornton pediatrician Sheela Mahnke to fill the empty chair.
For the second round of interviews, Councilor David DeMott said he wanted to have a chance to get more details from the applicants during council interviews. Last month, councilors gave each applicant 20 minutes to answer a set of question.
“One of the things I didn’t like about the process was there was no interaction, back and forth between us,” DeMott said. “I found it hard to judge without what we’re doing here — dialogue. This is what we do. It’s not always friendly but I think it’s valuable to see how people react to questions.”
Meanwhile, councilor Kathryn Skulley said she wanted to hear more from candidates that answered the written questions thoughtfully rather than those that provided one-word answers.
“Is there a way we can pick the people who rose to the top a bit?” Skulley said. “Some of the applications were made up of one-word answers, and that’s a bit frustrating. There’s no meat there for us to decide who the best candidates are. Instead of interviewing all 60 people there should be a way to tell the difference between people who are really interested and those who are not.”
Councilors will each select up to five favorite candidates, meaning as many as 25 candidates will be called in for interviews.
Councilor DeMott did pitch for a formal vote to fill the two open seats. He noted Mahnke, the councilor appointed last month, did not have experience.
“Now we are asking somebody who is brand new to this to be a deciding vote for two people on the council,” DeMott said. “To me, it changes it drastically. Not that I was not for a special election before, but I ask you to consider that. Maybe these last two spots should be filled by a special election.”
Councilor Seitz said Mahnke has all the duties and responsibilities as any other councilor, and Seitz said she’s confident Mahnke would make a fair decision.
And Councilor Skulley said voters would get their say on November’s ballot.
Three City Council seats will be up for election this year: that occupied by Councilor Anita Seitz, newly appointed Councilor Sheela Mahnke and the vacant seat left by Shannon Bird.
“I just have a problem doing an election in March and then ten months later having someone turn around and run an election,” Skulley said. “That just seems like a waste of time to me. Let’s get somebody in place and then let the voters have their say in November.”
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