Outgoing president hopes for a stronger City Council in 2010

D.J. Wilson
D.J. Wilson

The new year will mean a new look for the Edmonds City Council, with two new members (Adrienne Fraley-Monillas plus a yet-to-be-determined person filling the seat vacated by Peggy Pritchard Olson’s death), and a new president. And, if outgoing Council President D.J. Wilson has his way, 2010 will also be the year that the council takes a stronger hand in governing the city.

After a year serving in what he described as a largely “figurehead/administrative” role as Council President, Wilson is ready to turn the job over to a new council leader — the likely successor being Councilmember Steve Bernheim.

“I’m thrilled to pass the baton on to someone else,” Wilson said. “It was a tough year to lead the council. We went through a lot of difficult challenges,” among them a search for solutions to the city’s estimated $7 million budget deficit and the decision to transfer Edmonds fire service to Snohomish County Fire District No. 1.

Wilson, who runs a Edmonds-based strategic communications firm, said he recently had a long lunch with Bernheim to discuss the council president’s role and what direction the six-person governing body could take under Bernheim’s leadership.

A major challenge, Wilson said, is amount of time required to research proposals brought to the council by the mayor and staff. The council currently has one very talented part-time staff member, Senior Executive Assistant Jana Spellman, but could use someone full time so that council members are better prepared “and not just show up, vote and go home,” he added.

During council discussions about the Fire District 1 proposal, it became clear that “we didn’t have adequate staffing to support our needs,” Wilson noted.

During their lunch, Wilson said that he and Bernheim discussed the importance of “developing a long-term vision for the community and implementing it.” The council has scheduled a retreat for the first weekend in February, during which Wilson hopes officials will create not only that vision, but a strategic plan with benchmarks and clear goals for achieving it.

“The most important thing I’d like to see happen is that we continue to strengthen the council,” Wilson said, “and that means improving the cohesiveness of the council and their active engagement.”

Meanwhile, the council is taking applications for Pritchard-Olson’s seat through Dec. 31, and will schedule interviews in mid-January. Applicants need to be at least 18 years old, registered to vote and an Edmonds resident. The council will take a vote on the final candidates during a meeting following the interview process, with the winner required to get a council majority of four votes to fill the position.

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