Fifty-six people think they have what it takes to be the next Vancouver city councilor.
The last time Vancouver’s City Council had a vacancy was in 2010. The city received 15 applications for that position.
City Councilor Alishia Topper said, at the time, that seemed like a lot. Now, she and her colleagues are sifting through about four times that amount.
“People want to be involved,” Topper said. “I think people either feel like they need a platform to make change, or they feel as though their government isn’t doing enough for them. Whatever the reasons are, people feel like this is a really good venue to make a difference.”
Whoever the council appoints will have to run in this November’s election to continue serving on the council. But Topper said the person appointed will gain experience and have an edge over opponents in the fall.
“It’s a huge opportunity. This person will know about City Council procedures and policies, work directly with the city manager and be voting,” Topper added. “They’ll definitely have an advantage.”
The seat was left open after the late Scott Campbell was elected in November. Campbell died in September during his campaign but voters still elected him to the council.
“Really this is Scott Campbell’s seat that they’re trying to fill,” said Jim Mains, a local political consultant and Campbell’s former campaign manager. “What I would look at with the list of candidates is who most aligns with Scott’s beliefs, values and the mission he would bring to the table.”
Candidates for the open council seat range from local business leaders to community activists.
Notable names include Erik Paulsen, who currently chairs the Vancouver Planning Commission, and Mike Pond, who has worked on several local campaigns — including a stint as former state lawmaker Jim Moeller’s campaign manager in his 2016 run for Congress.
Pond announced his decision to apply for the vacancy on his Facebook page, saying his youth and community involvement will bring a new voice to the council.
“My experience has prepared me to engage with community members, make difficult decisions for the city, and engage in the development of Vancouver’s future,” Pond wrote.
Another applicant is Carmen McKibben, president of the southwest Washington chapter of the League of United Latin American Citizens. McKibben also runs a Southwest Mexican-inspired food truck, Vida Flare, and is part of the Fourth Plain Forward Business Association, a nonprofit that represents businesses along Vancouver’s international corridor.
“Being a woman of color who does a lot of work in communities of color will bring a different perspective to the council,” McKibben said of her decision to apply for the vacancy. “Having somebody who understands those communities a bit better, and understands the fast-growing Latino community in Clark County will help the council think outside the box.”
The City Council and the mayor will have less than two weeks to sift through all the applications and individually rank their top 15 applicants.
At a special meeting Feb. 5, the council will discuss the qualifications of the candidates in executive session and narrow down the list of applicants to a set of finalists who will be publicly interviewed starting at 4 p.m. that evening.
“I’m excited with the variety of candidates that we have,” said Vancouver Mayor Anne McEnerny-Ogle. “I’m looking forward to sitting down with my colleagues and deciding who our next council member will be.”
The council expects to make a decision following the set of interviews. The new councilor will then be sworn into office the following week on Feb. 12.