EVERETT — In a surprise move, the Everett City Council voted Wednesday night to appoint a local businesswoman to temporarily fill the spot left vacant by the death of Councilman Drew Nielsen.
The council’s choice is Gigi Burke, a former owner of an Arlington-based Anheuser-Busch distributor.
Burke serves on various community boards, including the Public Facilities Board of Comcast Arena and the Board of Trustees at Everett Community College.
She won’t officially be part of the council until she’s sworn in. A date for that wasn’t set Wednesday evening.
Eleven people applied to fill the interim position, although one person turned out not to live within the city limits and another missed the deadline.
Each of the council members was asked to place a top choice in a sealed envelope to be opened at Wednesday’s meeting.
Council President Ron Gipson had planned to hold public interviews at a later date. But when five of the six envelopes contained Burke’s name, the council opted to move forward for the sake of expediency.
The city charter gives the council only 30 days from the death of a council member to make an appointment. In this case, that date is June 11.
Council members Shannon Affholter, Gipson, Arlan Hatloe, Jeff Moore and Brenda Stonecipher all chose Burke.
Councilman Paul Roberts initially selected another candidate, former Everett community development director Reid Shockey. It was Roberts who suggested moving forward with Burke’s appointment.
He called Burke a “terrific candidate” who is “immensely qualified.”
“I would be happy to support her to make it unanimous to make sure she is welcomed by everyone on this council,” he added.
After the decision, Mayor Ray Stephanson swooped in to give Burke a hug while other city staff offered congratulations.
“I’m very honored,” she said. “Nobody can replace Drew Nielsen. I still have to do a good job.”
Burke said none of the council members talked to her before the decision and it was a complete surprise.
She originally had filed to run in the November election to permanently finish out Nielsen’s term but then abruptly pulled out.
Burke said she wants more time to plan a campaign and she had the time to serve now. She said she’s wanted to serve on the council for years but the timing has never been right.
This is the first time in Everett’s history a sitting council member has died in office.
Nielsen, 61, died in a river rafting accident on May 12. He had just been elected last fall to a four-year term.
The Everett city charter calls for a swift replacement. The seat is scheduled to appear on the November ballot. Five candidates have already filed to run in that race.
Burke will serve until that election is certified.
In an attempt to keep the appointment as fair as possible, Gipson refused to allow any of the candidates running to fill the seat permanently to apply for the interim spot.
Other candidates who applied for the interim spot include: Jonathan Ott, a retired Everett police officer; Janelle Sgrignoli, program administrator for Snohomish County Superior Court; Marissa Ingalls, legislative assistant to state Sen. Nick Harper; David Gardner, a vice president for Mortgage Advisory Group; Brian Hollingshead, owner of Everett Office Furniture; John Flowers, attorney; and Jessica Pavish, financial adviser for Edward Jones.
Reporter Debra Smith: 425-339-3197 or email@example.com.