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Four seek Langley mayor appointment

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

The next mayor of Langley will be chosen from among at least four candidates, two of whom presently sit on the five-member City Council.

The vacancy occurred when Mayor Larry Kwarsick was found guilty of a gross misdemeanor for tampering with a public document when he was planning director. He was fined and sentenced to 15 days in jail, a term he began serving Monday. He also had to resign as mayor.

In the interim, Mayor Pro-Tem Hal Seligson has taken on mayoral chores. He apparently enjoys the job as he applied for the position, which pays $53,000 annually.

The mayor’s salary has been a hot topic in the past, and Kwarsick was taking only $30,000, seeing it as a part-time job.

The council briefly talked about salary at Monday’s regular meeting, but it is fixed by ordinance until at least 2016 when the term Kwarsick was elected to expires.

Seligson, for one, sees it as a full-time job.

“Without seeming like I’m campaigning, as mayor pro-tem this is in no way a part-time hobby,” he told the council. “I put in 11 hour days. Be prepared to spend a great deal of time and energy at this task — but it is rewarding.”

Councilman Bruce Allen also applied for the position.

Also vying for a chance to  be mayor of Langley are city residents Edwin Anderson and Thomas Gill.

There could be more. The deadline to submit a letter of interest is Thursday, Feb. 7, at 5 p.m. They can be dropped off at City Hall, emailed to clerk@langleywa.org or mailed to Debbie Mahler, finance director/city clerk, P.O. Box 366, Langley.

The council plans to interview the candidates Tuesday, Feb. 19, at which time a new mayor may be appointed. Interviews must be conducted in public but the council can recess to executive session to discuss the merits of each candidate, and then come out and vote in public.

Seligson, speaking at Monday’s regular City Council meeting, said to the best of his knowledge, “This will be the first time the council is selecting a mayor.” In 1981 the entire council resigned in a dispute, but Mayor Herman Visser stayed on.

With two council members in the running, an interesting scenario is set up with two candidates interviewing the others, and each having one of the five votes that will decide the new mayor.

Seligson said the city attorney, Mike Kenyon, advised him that he could fully participate.

“I asked the attorney and the answer was ‘yes,’” he said during the discussion.

Allen sees the issue the same way, saying council applicants should be involved in the process. “I don’t have a problem with that,” he said when asked about it Tuesday morning.

Debbie Mahler, finance director and clerk/treasurer, said she would look further into the issue, double checking to make sure council members who are applicants can be fully involved in the process, including voting.

One more council applicant would mean a majority of council members would be seeking the mayoral position. Councilwoman Rene Neff’s name is often mentioned, but as of Tuesday noon she had not applied.

The council settled on several questions to ask each candidate, among them their background, motivation for seeking the job and conflicts of interest they may have.

Whomever is selected will have to face voters in November if he or she wants to keep the job.

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