City considers Phillips for short-term post: Resolution expected at Aug. 2 meeting to fill District 2 spot vacated by Phelps

The Tacoma City Council is expected to place a resolution on its Aug. 2 meeting agenda to appoint community leader and real-estate broker Jonathan Phillips to the District 2 position, according to an announcement made by Mayor Bill Baarsma at yesterday’s council study session.

The council position, which was created when former councilmember Kevin Phelps resigned July 8, is a short-term post that will expire Dec. 31. Fourteen people applied for the position, and their applications were reviewed July 25 at a public meeting of the city’s appointments committee.

During yesterday’s study session, Mayor Baarsma described the criteria the committee — which includes Baarsma and councilmembers Mike Lonergan, Bill Evans, and Julie Anderson — established in order to reach a decision. That criteria included: knowledge and understanding of city government, strong base of community support, evidence of leadership skills, understanding of the district, and time to dedicate to the position. Baarsma also said it was important that the applicant displayed the ability to “create a dialogue and conversation” for solving problems, and had a “well-rounded background.”

According to Baarsma, the committee created a ranked list of applicants based upon that criteria. “All of us came up with one name,” he said. “Phillips was the strongest of the 14 applicants at this time.”

“It’s remarkable that this one name showed up in all cases,” added Lonergan. “We had 14 excellent prospects. Any one of them could have done a good job. Jonathan Phillips happened to be the best one to recommend to the council.”

Phillips has been a real-estate broker in Tacoma for 22 years. He is also chairman of both the Tacoma Landmarks Preservation Commission and the North End Neighborhood Council.

But yesterday’s announcement was met with some criticism — not of Phillips, but of the process by which the appointments committee made its decision and recommendation.

Councilmember Rick Talbert told his colleagues that he was confused by the committee’s actions. “It was my understanding there would not be a recommendation coming from the appointments committee,” he said. “Rather, the committee would simply vet applications for requirements and bring forward names for more in-depth discussions.”

Talbert added that it was understandable that one name rose to the top of the list. “But I want to make sure I raise that issue,” he said. “If I had a big problem with this decision, I would be put in a position to lobby against this person.”

Still, he expressed support for Phillips. “I ranked Phillips high on a list myself,” Talbert said.

Carolyn Davidson, Denny Faker, and Jake Fey have filed paperwork with the state Public Disclosure Commission announcing their plans to run for the permanent post. However, Baarsma and the city council announced last week that they would exclude candidates who intended to run for election in the fall.

The district includes Old Town, downtown, the tideflats, and the northeast neighborhood.