With a fresh beard and a new seat, Ben Stuckart resurfaced in City Council chambers on Monday for the first time since losing his bid for mayor on Nov. 5.
With just a handful of meetings left, the outgoing two-term City Council president has informally ceded his post to Councilman Breean Beggs, who will be sworn in as the new president in January after he defeated political newcomer Cindy Wendle for the job in this month’s election.
Hoping to get Beggs off to a running start – and avoid any public conflict at council meetings on his way out the door – Stuckart has left his presidential duties to Beggs for the remainder of the year. Monday wasn’t Beggs’ first time serving as president pro tempore in Stuckart’s absence, but it will stay that way as the council looks to wrap up its legislative agenda before the next mayor and council are sworn in.
“Even being able to do the meeting two weeks in a row was very helpful,” Beggs said. “It really is a different level of intensity … there’s all these details you have to keep track of until it becomes second nature to you.”
Stuckart is well aware that Spokane knows how to get under his skin. By giving up the president’s chair, Stuckart hopes to avoid conflict, like the type shown in attack ads against him in the mayor’s race.
“I’ve been doing this for eight years and I have people who like to try to press my buttons, and this way that won’t happen and this will ensure a smooth transition,” Stuckart said.
Beggs said Stuckart approached him and asked him to take over the meetings.
“It just allows him to take a little bit of a step back and not get caught up in any drama at the end of the year,” Beggs said.
For Stuckart, the biggest learning curve in taking over as president was understanding just how much attention has to be paid to whoever is speaking and to ensuring that the council’s rules are being followed. Other council members can be reading through ordinances or paying attention to the minutiae of an argument.
“When you’re the council president, your focus 100% needs to be on who’s talking on the dais, and that’s a change from a council member when you can maybe multitask. You don’t get to multitask when you’re (council president),” Stuckart said.
Items atop the council’s agenda for the coming weeks are adopting a 2020 city budget and tackling a slew of housing and tenant-protection proposals set to be introduced in the coming days. Those proposals are expected to be taken up at the Dec. 9 council meeting.
Meanwhile, Stuckart will have to sort out his future, and has meetings lined up over the next several weeks to consider his next steps. He plans to stay in Spokane, but hasn’t identified a landing spot yet.
“My dream job would be to be somewhere building affordable housing or helping less fortunate people in our community,” Stuckart said.
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