Now that he has won the race for Spokane City Council president, Breean Beggs’ first task will be to fill his position as a council member representing the South Hill.
Although he trailed opponent Cindy Wendle by more than 700 votes on election night, Beggs surged as elections officials continued to count ballots in the subsequent days. When the latest tally was posted on Thursday, he led by more than 500 votes and Wendle conceded.
Atop his to-do list is to organize the search process for a new council member to replace him through the end of his term, which was set to expire in 2021.
In the event of a vacancy, the City Council’s rules call for the remaining members to appoint a new member.
Although he won’t take on his new role until January 2020, Beggs hopes to launch that process as soon as the election results are certified, starting by publicizing a job description and the process for appointing a new council member. Any District 2 resident will be welcome to apply.
Under the council’s rules, each member can review applicants they favor. Those candidates will be reviewed by a council subcommittee, who will forward a list of finalists to the full City Council for public interviews.
The council can discuss the merits of each candidate in executive session, but must vote on the winner in public.
“My personal intent is to be the facilitator of that process and not be the champion of any one candidate,” Beggs said.
Beggs is no stranger to the appointment process.
In 2016, he earned the council’s appointment to represent District 2 after Councilman Jon Snyder resigned to accept a job in state government.
“The process was not hard, other than any time you put yourself out there in the public for a position, and someone gets to vote, that’s a vulnerable feeling,” Beggs said.
Beggs warned potential applicants that the time commitment of being a City Council member is serious.
“I think most people underestimate how much time and effort it takes to do the job. It can easily be a full-time job in terms of a 40-hour week or more, depending on the council member,” Beggs said.
His fellow District 2 representative, Lori Kinnear, agreed: this is no part-time job.
The appointee will not just attend regular council meetings, but share the burden of sitting on outside boards and commissions, participating in media briefings, meeting with constituents and more.
“People have no idea how time consuming this is, and if you think that you’re just going to come in and do a 20-hour-a-week gig, that’s not going to work. That means someone else is going to have to pick up the slack,” Kinnear said.
There is speculation abound that the council could appoint City Council President Ben Stuckart, who lost his bid for mayor to Nadine Woodward last week. Though he has hit the two-term limit in the president’s post, which is elected city-wide, Stuckart could avert the city’s two-term limit by taking on a different role as the representative of District 2.
The City Charter specifically distinguishes the district representatives from the council president positions when describing term limits.
It’s unclear if Stuckart has any interest in the job. He did not respond to a request for comment on Friday.
Kinnear said the council has to consider every application but doubted Stuckart would have any interest in it.
“I can not imagine he would want that, honestly. I can’t imagine. It would be awkward, and I would imagine that he would want to move on. He’s been on the council for eight years, that’s a long time,” Kinnear said.
Beggs said he wouldn’t take positions for or against any candidate at this point.
“If he did apply and he became a finalist, I would give him due consideration, and it would be unfair to say whether I support or don’t support (him),” Beggs said.
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