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Decision on Hankins replacement may come Tuesday

"Oak Harbor may get a new elected official next Tuesday without an election.The City Council is planning to interview candidates, and with any luck, choose a replacement for Councilman Rex Hankins during a special meeting Aug. 15. Hankins, a feisty Growth Management supporter, died July 8 at the age of 73.With the big number of applicants and differing opinions among council members about the candidates, narrowing the field to one person may take some time.Mayor Patty Cohen and members of the City Council received letters of intent from 11 local residents after putting out a call for applications last month.They include realtor and former Navy base public affairs officer Howard Thomas; teacher and former state legislator Sue Karahalios; Coachman Inn manager Randy Bradford; realtor and long-time chair of the city's board of adjustment Nora O'Connell Balda; resident Patricia Gardner; former city recreation director Eric Gerber; local businessman Todd Martin; local volunteer Robert Boe; resident K.C. Pohtilla; parks board and municipal pier committee chairperson Helen Chatfield-Weeks; and former councilman James Earl.In addition, any Council member can suggest a candidate even if that person didn't formally apply for the position.The Council can choose a replacement, who will hold the office until the November 2001 election, with a simple majority vote. The mayor can break a possible tie. The council has 90 days from Hankins' death to pick a replacement, or the choice falls to the county commissioners.At the meeting, councilors and Cohen will first meet in a closed executive session to discuss the selection process before the public meeting, which is scheduled for 7 p.m.Councilman John LaFond said that the councilors hope to narrow the candidates to three or four people quickly, then interview those people more extensively.While each councilor will get a chance to question the candidates, it seems that they will each be looking for different answers.Cohen said she would like to see a replacement who will run for the office in next year's election and has a strong sense of stewardship for the city, as Hankins did.LaFond said some people want to see a candidate who is a mirror image of Hankins, but he disagrees. Instead, he said he'll be looking for someone who has shown interest in city matters in the past and will fit in with the current members.In my opinion the issue is not whether the person represents a continuation of Hankins' philosophy, he said. The issue should be whether they'll do the best possible job for the city.Councilman Danny Paggao, on the other hand, said he'd like to see a candidate who will continue what Mr. Hankins did for the city. Unlike LaFond, Paggao sided with Hankins on issues regard growth and development. Both men were against Wal-Mart building at its current spot and fought for stricter, slower development.I am looking for someone who really cares for the city like Mr. Hankins did, Paggao said. "

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