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Langley council picks Hal Seligson for seat

LANGLEY - The Langley City Council picked Hal Seligson to fill the seat left vacant by the resignation of Russell Sparkman earlier this year.

The vote Monday night was 2-2 and Mayor Paul Samuelson broke the tie.

Seligson was one of four candidates for the seat. The others were Thomas Gill, a Langley native making his third attempt to join the council; Kathleen Waters, a Langley businesswoman and frequent critic of city hall; and Robin Adams, a resident of Langley since 2007 and the point man for the Langley Critical Area Alliance, a group of neighbors and others protesting the proposed Langley Passage development on environmental grounds.

Councilman Bob Waterman said Seligson would bring a different perspective to the council. He said Seligson was more qualified and could think on his feet.

"I think we have incredibly qualified candidates," Councilwoman Rene Neff said. But she recalled Adams' vow to work to bring more business into Langley, and pointed to his expertise on utility issues.

"I just thought you had really good ideas," she said.

The vote came after a 90-minute interview session where each candidate was asked the same questions followed by a non-public portion of the meeting where the council retreated upstairs in city hall to discuss the qualifications of the candidates.

The council emerged after two sessions of private discussion that stretched 45 minutes.

Neff did not recuse herself from the vote for a new council member. Earlier, she had said she would step aside from the vote after she had been harshly criticized by commenters on the Record website for an opinion piece Neff wrote on the council's blog.

On the blog, Neff responded to an opinion piece written by Waters that criticized Councilman Robert Gilman's involvement on land-use planning issues. Neff characterized Waters as dishonest and a bully, and the blog entry led some online commenters to ask Neff to resign from the council or recuse herself from the selection process for a new council member.

At the close of the interview session, Seligson vowed to be an independent thinker - unless someone offered a better idea.

"I believe in open government above all else," Seligson said. "And I believe in a government of equal divisions where there are checks and balances and I will work if I am appointed...to be cooperative and collegial."

"I have my own mind and I will go by my own shining light. Unless it's drowned out by the lights around. Which I would welcome," he added.

There was confusion during the vote on the nominations.

The council first took a vote on Seligson's nomination, with Waterman voting yes. Neff looked down, then raised her hand to vote for Seligson.

Samuelson then asked for votes not in favor, and Gilman and Councilwoman Fran Abel voted against. Samuelson then announced he would break the tie, and voted for Seligson.

The mayor then called for a vote on Adams, and all four council members raised their hands.

Samuelson, however, reminded the council they could not cast votes for more than one person, and the original vote was left in place.

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