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Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on October 11th, 2017, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 18, Issue 32 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 18, Issue 32

Solvang City Council ends deadlock, appoints new member


Solvang City Council appointed Karen Waite to its recently vacated seat on Oct. 6, ending a weeks-long debate over protocol codified in 2009 that outlines ways to fill a prematurely emptied position.

Council members voted 0-3, with one abstention, to appoint Waite, a local businesswoman and the runner-up of the November 2016 election by only five votes. The appointment received a hearty round of applause from attendees on Oct. 6, and Waite was immediately sworn in as an active member of the Solvang City Council.

 “I would like to thank you all for your support,” Waite said while seated in her new council chair, “and I’d like you all to have full faith in knowing I will do the best job I possibly can on this council, and thank you again.”

The meeting on Oct. 6 was the last of two lengthy special meetings called to discuss filling the vacant seat, which was emptied by former council member Hans Duus on Aug. 28 after he moved to Santa Maria mid-term. Since Duus’ resignation, council members battled over whether or not to follow city protocol that says a prematurely emptied seat should be offered to the last election’s runner-up.

Council members Neill Zimmerman and Ryan Toussaint remained against the policy for weeks. Zimmerman, who in the end, abstained from voting to appoint Waite, said on Oct. 6 that the council should review the protocol, and instead create an ordinance that legally must be followed. That, he said, would prevent this situation from happening again.

“I still firmly believe that the runner-up of an election a year later isn’t a good policy, it’s not a good protocol,” Zimmerman said. “I think the fairest thing is some type of an election.”

A special election would have cost the city thousands of dollars, which some residents voiced concerns about.

After weeks of objections, Councilmember Toussaint eventually voted to appoint Waite, but he told the Sun he hasn’t changed his mind about the protocol. Toussaint said he doesn’t like that it’s a guideline enacted by a previous council and that it isn’t legally binding.

“I think we established during this whole process that there are some faults in this guideline and it will be brought back up for discussion in the future,” Toussaint said. “My decision was to defer on the side of optimism in appointing [Waite] to the council. I look forwarding to developing a good working relationship with her.”

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