Langley council to choose interim member from familiar faces

A few familiar faces at Langley City Hall are up for consideration as the newest council member.

Dominique Emerson, Frank Rose and Aaron Simpson all applied for the appointment of position 2, which was formerly held by Robin Black. All three have experience on city boards: Emerson is a member of the planning advisory board, Simpson is a former member of the same body and Rose is chairman of the arts commission.

Interviews are planned for the Tuesday, Jan. 19 city council meeting. The council will discuss the candidates’ applications in an executive session, then return to the open meeting and vote. Langley council meetings are typically held the first and third Monday of each month, but this meeting was pushed back because of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday Jan. 18.

Whoever is selected will take over for Black, who stepped down to fulfill a campaign promise. Her husband, Tim Callison, was elected mayor and she said she would resign to avoid the perception of a conflict of interest, though not required to do so by state law or city code.

Black resigned Jan. 4, after winning an uncontested election in November. That means the appointee will serve until the November 2017 election.

“It effectively becomes a two-year term,” Callison said in a recent interview with The Record.

With only four remaining council members, a tie vote could be cast. One of the city’s previous city council appointments ended in a tie that was later nullified by an improper vote. The mayor, however, has the ability to cast a tiebreaker, Callison said this week.

“Hopefully they can come to a majority decision,” he said.

“We’re very blessed to have three well-qualified candidates,” Callison added.

Emerson has served on the planning board since 2012. She worked on the city’s shoreline advisory committee prior to that, helping craft the Langley Shoreline Master Program. A former information technology expert and consulting company owner, she now runs Custom Landscape Solutions in Langley.

“I am interested not just in recommending zoning ordinances, but in the impact of the ordinance, its cost, and the trade-offs it entails,” she wrote in the cover letter.

Rose has served on the arts commission as its chairman since its inception in early 2014. He spent 27 years of active duty in the U.S. Navy, plus another 10 years as a contractor for companies working for the Navy. He cited economic development, budget development, emergency management planning, safety and security as areas of interest for him as a councilman. In his cover letter, he said he would continue his position on the arts commission until the end of the term.

Simpson is best known in Langley for his work behind the espresso machines at Useless Bay Coffee Company and, more recently, Mukilteo Coffee Company. At the latter location, he is the coffee roaster in charge of industrial process management, workflow optimization and team coordination. The South Whidbey High School alumnus served as chair of the Island County Democrats, treasurer of the Langley Chamber of Commerce, and still serves on the boards of Langley Main Street Association and Whidbey Island Center for the Arts.

“My time with the planning advisory board has granted me the opportunity to review in depth many of the facets of our town’s infrastructure and governance, as well as cultivate an ability to engage with the public on sensitive issues in a meaningful way,” he wrote in his cover letter.

The council’s choice will be the second neophyte member to join this year. Councilwoman Ursula Shoudy was elected without a challenger in November to her first publicly elected office. Only council members Rene Neff and Bruce Allen have served more than a full term, with Thomas Gill being in the second year of his first term.

Black, who herself was appointed to the council in 2014, said there was one trait above all that the new appointee should possess.

“Listen with open ears and an open heart, that’s what I always tried to do,” she said in an interview Thursday.

A council member who does that must temper what they hear with the voices of others, she said.

“I also think it’s really important to not assume one person’s opinions are the opinions of all,” Black said.

A need for the council that she pointed out was to find or select someone who understands city budgets well. Former councilman Jim Sundberg was that person, but he stepped down and his old position is now taken by Shoudy, she said.

Whoever is tapped will have plenty of time to serve before being asked to run for the position in 2017.