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Council looks for Hankins fill-in

"The Oak Harbor City Council is soliciting applications from local residents who might be interested in filling Rex Hankins' seat.Councilman Hankins died July 8 from complications from lung cancer. The City Council has 90 days to appoint a replacement or the decision will fall to the Island County commissioners.City Attorney Phil Bleyhl explained the procedure of replacing Hankins to the council members during a special meeting Tuesday night. The Council has the authority to appoint a replacement by a simple majority vote. Mayor Patty Cohen can cast the deciding vote in case of a tie.Whoever is appointed will serve until the next council election, which will be held in November of 2001.During the special meeting, the council members authorized a public solicitation for applications, which will amount to an ad in the Whidbey News-Times and a note on public access Channel 10. Cohen said people interested in serving on the council should write a letter of intent, a description of qualifications and the reasons for applying for the position. The deadline for applying is July 31. The letter should be sent to the Mayor's Office, 865 SW Barrington Drive.Cohen said council members aren't limited to nominating just the people who formally apply. Councilors can bring forward nominees at any time before the 90 days runs out and can reopen the call for applications.Cohen urged the council members to make a decision as soon as possible so city government can get back to normal. With a member missing, it may be more difficult for the council to take actions that require a super-majority, like passing an ordinance.It's now more likely to end up with a tie, Bleyhl agreed.The issue of replacing Hankins will be on the Council's agenda for the Aug. 8 meeting, but a final decision on a candidate isn't likely. Bleyhl said it's up to the council members if they want to interview candidates, but the process should be done in public.I recommended that if there's an unknown candidate, it would be appropriate to interview him, he said. But if you interview one, you should interview them all.Several people have already expressed interest in the job, so it may be a time-consuming process. Since Hankins was a staunch supporter of growth management and precise planning, these issues will likely become a part of the discussions in choosing a replacement.Cohen said she would like to see a candidate who is interested in running for the seat during the 2001 election and who exemplifies that sense of stewardship of the city that was so strong with Rex."

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