EVERETT — The Snohomish County Council is set to vote on Wednesday to fill the seat left vacant by former Councilman Terry Ryan.
But, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, the decision won’t come from the council chambers.
Instead, the council will return to its virtual dais — via online video conferencing platform Zoom — to interview the three Democrats vying to succeed Ryan, who stepped down in February. The contenders, picked by the county Democratic Party last month, are Mountlake Terrace Mayor Kyoko Matsumoto Wright, Mill Creek Councilwoman Stephanie Vignal and state Rep. Jared Mead of Mill Creek.
It’s a new and likely unprecedented twist on a longstanding selection process that’s dictated by the county charter and state law, county officials say.
“I think it’s fairly safe to say that this is the first time that this has occurred in the state of Washington,” said Geoffrey Thomas, the council’s chief of staff. “If this is not the first time, it is a very unique circumstance.”
The meeting will begin at 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday.
Members of the public can participate online by visiting zoom.us/j/568526568 or via phone by dialing (253)-215-8782 or (301)-715-8592 and entering the meeting ID number 568 526 568.
Attendees will have a chance to weigh in during a public comment period before the interviews begin. To comment, participants should select the “raise hand” function in Zoom and wait to be called on, Thomas said.
Each interview is scheduled to last 25 minutes. Mead will be first, followed by Vignal and Matsumoto Wright, according to the meeting agenda.
While one candidate is being interviewed, a moderator will put the other two on hold so that they will not see or hear the interviewee. It will be as if they are waiting in a virtual lobby, Thomas said.
After the interviews are completed, the council will have the chance to discuss the candidates’ qualifications in a closed executive session before deliberating and voting, Thomas said.
A candidate must get three votes to be appointed. The council may continue the meeting to Thursday if a consensus isn’t reached; however, if no contender has three votes by the end of the day on Thursday, then the governor will have 30 days to appoint someone to the District 4 seat, Thomas said.
“I think the process that’s been set up is a good thing,” said Council Chairman Nate Nehring. “But yeah, it will be a little weird doing it all over Zoom and not getting to talk in person. Interesting times.”
District 4 spans suburban areas, mostly east of Interstate 5, and includes Mill Creek, Brier, Mountlake Terrace and part of Bothell, along with unincorporated areas such as Silver Firs and Thrashers Corner.
Ryan, a Mill Creek Democrat, was chosen by Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers to become the county’s first-ever director of aerospace economic development.
The oath of office will not be administered virtually; rather, council staff will arrange to meet with whomever is selected in-person, Thomas said.
If the person appointed to the seat wishes to serve the rest of the term, which concludes at the end of 2021, then he or she must run for election in November.