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News / Politics / Clark County Politics

Erik Paulsen picked to fill Vancouver City Council vacancy

By Katy Sword, Columbian politics reporter
Published: January 14, 2019, 9:19pm
4 Photos
Vancouver city council candidate Erik Paulsen is interviewed by the council on Monday evening. Paulsen was appointed to fill the vacancy created when former Councilor Alishia Topper resigned Dec. 31. She was elected to serve as Clark County treasurer.
Vancouver city council candidate Erik Paulsen is interviewed by the council on Monday evening. Paulsen was appointed to fill the vacancy created when former Councilor Alishia Topper resigned Dec. 31. She was elected to serve as Clark County treasurer. (Alisha Jucevic/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

Erik Paulsen has been appointed as the next city councilor for Vancouver. Unlike the last vacancy opening for which Paulsen was also a finalist, the council needed only one round of nominations to make a selection.

Their approval was unanimous.

The vacancy was created when former Councilor Alishia Topper resigned Dec. 31. She was elected to serve as Clark County treasurer.

Eighteen applied for the open seat, and the council selected six to interview Monday night: Adam Aguilera, Audrey Mattoon, Maureen Montague, Paulsen, Diana Perez and David Regan.

The previous vacancy process — which resulted in the appointment of Councilor Laurie Lebowsky — netted 56 applicants.

Paulsen, current chair of Vancouver’s Planning Commission, was a finalist for Lebowsky’s position as well.

“I learned a lot through last year’s experience, and I applied what I learned,” Paulsen said. “I was sought and was given advice by a lot of different individuals. None of this would have been possible without that assistance and help and support, and I’m just gratified that the council members saw that difference.”

During the February appointment process, Paulsen was nominated for the position but received a 3-3 vote. A majority vote is required to appoint a councilor.

The 2018 process took three nominations and votes before a councilor was selected. Paulsen remarked that he hoped this year’s proceedings would be different.

“I think it’s better for the community, and if it hadn’t been me — which I’m glad it was — I would have hoped that whomever was chosen it was a first ballot,” Paulsen said, recalling the heartbreak that resulted from the drawn-out nomination process in 2018.

Councilor Ty Stober encouraged the candidates to consider this process a stepping stone to move forward, reminding them that many on the council were not successful in their first bids for office.

“Tonight starts a new platform for you,” Stober said. “Set yourself up for success.”

Mayor Anne McEnerny-Ogle said the decision was difficult and likened it to the reality TV show “Survivor,” and unfortunately five candidates were being asked to leave the island.

McEnerny-Ogle asked the candidates to review their interviews at a later date so they could see what the council saw and learn from the evening.

Interview process

Each candidate was asked the same questions — six in total. The council’s questioning varied from discussing city challenges, mitigating conflicts and their neighborhood park to budget cuts, zoning impacts and balancing the time demands of a council position.

Lebowsky asked a secondary question of three candidates: Are you prepared to run a campaign? As she well knows, this position requires the appointee to seek office immediately. Paulsen will need to run for the position in November if he wants to continue serving the remainder of the term.

“I sit before you at the culmination of many years of deliberative process whether or not it would be appropriate for me to serve on city council,” Paulsen said. “Four years ago was the first time I started thinking about it. This is not an obligation I have taken lightly.”

He said he’s assembled a group of advisers to help him hit the ground running — tomorrow.

But he’s not the only one. Regan said he’s planning to run for office regardless.

“I’ve began a campaign process,” Regan said, which includes a website and seeking endorsements. “I really want people to know I’m there for them in any capacity.”

Regan has not yet filed with the Public Disclosure Commission. Candidates seeking local office are required to file within two weeks of announcing.

Paulsen will be sworn in to office Jan. 28 during the regular city council meeting.

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Columbian politics reporter