It took more than four hours for the council to agree on a nomination, but by the end of Monday’s special meeting, Vancouver had its newest city council member.
Laurie Lebowsky, a planner with Clark County, was appointed to the Position 1 vacant seat by a 4-2 vote. She was among six candidates interviewed Monday night. They were selected from a stack of 56 applications, all vying for a seat left open after the late Scott Campbell was elected in November.
“It was a pleasant surprise and I feel honored that I was chosen,” Lebowsky told OPB after her appointment was announced.
Lebowsky’s appointment to the council came after two other nominations failed to pass.
After returning from an hour-long executive session to discuss candidate interviews and qualifications, councilor Bart Hansen nominated Mary Elkin. Elkin chairs the Vancouver Neighborhood Alliance and founded Friends of Vancouver Fire Station 6, a group that lobbied the city council to reopen an East Vancouver fire station in 2011.
While councilors found Elkin’s experience showed passion and involvement in the community, some said they were looking for someone with stronger business experience. Elkin’s appointment failed in a 4-2 vote.
Next, Councilor Linda Glover nominated Erik Paulsen, who chairs the Vancouver Planning Commission and worked for U.S. Bancorp for 25 years. While some councilors were impressed with Paulsen’s planning experience and background, others did not see him as their first choice.
“I was looking for more passion, some positives about how this candidate works with others in the community,” said Mayor Anne McEnerny-Ogle.
Paulsen’s appointment ultimately failed in a 3-3 tie.
For the third and final nomination, Councilor Alishia Topper nominated Laurie Lebowsky, a planner with more than 20 years of experience. She moved to Vancouver from Camas in 2016.
“I believe that she has the professional expertise to help us in a city that is growing at a rapid rate,” said Topper, citing Lebowksy’s knowledge of density and urban planning as assets the council will need moving forward.
“You can tell she has a good sense of what makes a city livable,” said Glover who was impressed with Lebowsky’s answers on annexation and growth.
In her public interview before council deliberations, Lebowsky stressed her experience with government process.
“What I offer is that I know about change, making change happen, and how government works,” Lebowsky told the council. “I can bring that perspective to the council.”
Councilor Bart Hansen and Mayor Anne McEnerny-Ogle both opposed Lebowsky’s nomination. McEnerny-Ogle said Lebowsky would have too many conflicts of interest as a county employee and wanted a candidate with stronger volunteer experience.
At the next council’s next meeting, on Monday, Lebowsky will be officially sworn in as the newest member.
Lebowksy will serve on the council until the November election, which she’ll need to win to finish out the four-year term.
“I understand that if I am appointed to this position, I have to turn around pretty much tomorrow, or tonight, and start running a campaign for city council,” said Lebowsky.