The Everett City Council is poised to select, on behalf of its citizens, a representative to fill position 7 until the next general election. The council is entrusted with the task of doing so, rather than having Everett residents elect their own member, because the timing of the seat’s vacancy did not allow for it to appear on the ballot.
Do not underestimate the impact of this appointment. When November 2014 rolls around and this appointee stands for election, he or she will possess the power of incumbency. This advantage is earned by voting for projects and policy that benefit potential campaign donors, by speaking at public events where voters see your face and hear your name, by being more informed about issues because you are privy to information related to city business that is difficult to obtain if you are not a councilmember, and by appearing in the various media that circulate among Everett residents.
Next November, this appointee will have name-recognition, talking points, and the ability to raise a lot of money to defend the seat — all achieved as a result of being chosen. So powerful is the ability to appoint someone to an elective office that others (Rod Blagojevich comes to mind) have abused it to their own ends.
As the Council members consider whom to appoint in this vacant position, they are advised to remember that they do not act on their own preferences, but on the preferences of their electorate. Since this council has not demonstrated the ability to be selfless in making such appointments recently, I hope the voters of Everett will be vocal about what they want in their appointee and hold Council members accountable for selecting the applicant who can best deliver it.