Tacoma City Council members winnowed 55 applications to a familiar face Tuesday.
The council voted 7-1 to appoint Lauren Walker, a former two-term councilwoman, to the at-large council seat vacated by Victoria Woodards last month.
Walker, who was on the council from 2008 to 2015, was one of eight finalists whom the council interviewed during its study session Tuesday afternoon. Term limits ended her time on the council. She lives in the Hilltop.
Council members said they appreciated Walker’s intimate knowledge of many of the issues they’ll be dealing with in the coming year, including voting on the future of the city’s municipal broadband network and hiring a new city manager. She was part of the council that hired the outgoing T.C. Broadnax, whose last day working for the city was Tuesday.
Many also said they appreciated the fact that Walker plans to serve the remainder of the term this year, but said she would not seek election to a full term in November.
“Lauren Walker is someone who has been through the crucible and has been voted by the electorate and has been entrusted with a position to represent a district,” said Councilman Joe Lonergan, who made the motion to bring Walker’s name up for a vote. “When I was looking for a candidate personally my initial thoughts ... were that I was looking for someone who could hit the ground running, someone who wasn’t necessarily going to have their attention split with a campaign immediately after taking office.”
Councilman Conor McCarthy was the sole “no” vote Tuesday, saying that he thought it sent the wrong message to put a call out to the community and then appoint a former council insider.
“I think we need to be forward-looking and tell the community real clearly when you take the call and decide to show up and interview before God and everyone else on television to have the opportunity to sit up here, albeit in a temporary capacity, that we are genuine in our consideration of you and that we are forward-looking as a City Council,” McCarthy said.
Walker, who is the executive director of the Fair Housing Center of Washington, said in her interview that she has arranged with the nonprofit’s board of directors to work part-time while she steps in to fill the temporary role on the City Council.
“Once I got off the council I realized how much time goes into being a council member,” Walker said in her interview Tuesday. “So that’s why I talked about this time around I’m going to cut my hours back to half time at my agency and talk to my board about it so that would give me more time … it was always hard to keep up on emails, hard to return phone calls and hard to be in so many different places at the same time.”
After they voted, Mayor Marilyn Strickland looked at Walker in the audience and said, “Welcome back.”