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Langley City Council, business continue without mayor

Hal Seligson acted as mayor pro-tem at the city council meeting Monday night.  - Ben Watanabe / The Record
Hal Seligson acted as mayor pro-tem at the city council meeting Monday night.
— image credit: Ben Watanabe / The Record

LANGLEY — There was no mayor’s report at the Langley City Council meeting Monday night.

There was no mayor.

Even Larry Kwarsick’s name card was absent from the table next to the council members and city clerk Debbie Mahler. Most surprisingly, there was little discussion of the mayor’s resignation.

Kwarsick emailed his letter of resignation to council members and city staff Sunday night. The resignation followed a guilty plea he made in Island County Superior Court over falsifying a legal document while he was the city planner. Kwarsick’s resignation was effective Jan. 7, leaving the city council meeting without a mayor.

“This is unprecedented in Langley and doesn’t happen much in the state, which I guess is a good thing,” said City Councilman Hal Seligson, who assumed his role as mayor pro-tem.

“We will work as a council to move the city forward.”

While the town was buzzing about the news in online forums and social networks, the council stayed mostly mum outside of assuring residents at the meeting that they will seek a replacement. City council has the authority to appoint a resident of legal age until the next general election in November, unless there are enough candidates to warrant a primary. Langley’s last mayoral election in 2011 had only one candidate: Larry Kwarsick.

Confusion had set in for some of the council members as to who could apply, and specifically, if a council member could seek the position and still vote on other candidates.

“The law is very loose in a way in describing this,” Seligson said.

Langley City Council has 90 days to take action. Were that time period to expire without a council-appointed mayor, the duty would fall to the Island County commissioners. The very notion of leaving Langley’s executive position up to the whims of the commissioners drew laughter and snickers from the crowd of 25 people.

Of such a large crowd at the city’s first meeting of 2013, only one resident addressed the mayor’s resignation. Carl Magnusson, an Edgecliff resident, read from a prepared statement and urged the council to protect the city’s whistleblower, city planner Jeff Arango; to review planning documents Kwarsick approved that may have conflicts of interest; and an update of the city’s code of ethics.

“While Mayor Kwarsick may have brought some administrative expertise, it came at a cost,” Magnusson said.

Only one other public comment pertained to the mayor’s vacancy. A man asked about the restrictions for candidates and particularly the geographic boundaries. Langley’s mayor must have lived within city limits, which are smaller than the Langley zip code, for at least one year. Langley Police Chief Randy Heston provided a reprieve from the official nature of the meeting with one more qualification.

“And a clear record,” said Heston, drawing an eruption of laughter from the crowd.

As the first meeting of the year, the council had city staff report on their accomplishments in 2012. The Second Street redesign, completion of the park and ride at the Island Church of Whidbey (formerly Langley CMA) and hiring an additional officer to the ranks of the Langley Police Department were among the items listed.

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