Helen McGovern is returning to the Lakewood City Council in what apparently will be a caretaker role of less than a year.
The council voted unanimously Monday night to appoint McGovern, who previously served on the council from 2001 to 2008. She will take the seat vacated by Doug Richardson last month after his election to the Pierce County Council. Twelve candidates had applied for the appointment.
McGovern was the only candidate the council nominated for the appointment during a selection process that lasted less than 15 minutes. There was almost no discussion among council members beyond remarks about the qualifications they were seeking.
“It was an honor to be chosen by the voters, and it’s an honor to be chosen by my peers,” McGovern said afterward.
Council members said they were looking for a person who had prior civic experience so he or she could get up to speed quickly on issues facing Lakewood in the coming months. They said they were pleased with the overall field of candidates.
“It may have been an easier decision if there were fewer qualified applicants,” Mayor Don Anderson said.
The candidates gave four-minute presentations to the council last week. The council spent more than an hour behind closed doors afterward. State law allows these executive sessions to evaluate the qualifications of council candidates. But it makes clear that council members must deliberate and make a decision in public.
McGovern, 61, is the executive director of the Emergency Food Network and served as co-chairwoman of Lakewood’s incorporation effort in the mid-1990s.
She wrote in her application that she has no interest in running for election later this year. She will remain on the council until election results for the council seat are certified in late November.
Anderson said McGovern has institutional memory and can speed through what would normally be a one-year learning curve for a new council member. She also has experience hiring a city manager, as she was involved in the selection process for current City Manager Andrew Neiditz.
In other business Monday, the council delayed the appointment of an interim city manager until next Monday at the earliest. The decision was tabled to give Councilwoman Mary Moss the chance to participate in the discussion. She was unable to attend Monday’s meeting due to a family emergency.
Neiditz will leave the city Feb. 23 to become the first executive director of South Sound 911, Pierce County’s new emergency dispatch agency. Neiditz has said it will take between two and three months to hire a new city manager.
The council did vote to hire Bellevue-based The Prothman Company to lead the search for the third city manager in Lakewood’s history. Five years ago, the city hired the firm to lead the search for Choi Halladay, the city’s finance director. It will charge the city $19,500 for its work.
The meeting began with a recognition for Richardson. He served 17 years on the council and left as the longest-serving council member in Lakewood’s history.
Speaking by video conference from Afghanistan, Col. Michael Getchell, commander of the 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, were among those who offered Richardson accolades. The brigade is the city’s partner under Joint Base Lewis-McChord’s Community Connections Program.
Brigade leaders presented Richardson with its own proclamation and a print depicting the brigade conducting the last combat patrol in Iraq in 2010.
“It’s been a privilege every day to be able to serve during those 17 years,” the former mayor said at the end of the hour-long tribute.
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