The Livermore City Council decided this week to change the process of selecting a fifth member after receiving applications from nearly two dozen community members interested in joining the governing body.
The initial staff recommendation was for the council to review and select a smaller number of applicants to move forward to the interview phase this coming Tuesday (Jan. 19); however, Mayor Bob Woerner proposed -- and the council unanimously agreed -- to interview all of the applicants.
"I'm trying to come up with a way to do this that is inclusive, is efficient and is effective for the purpose of selecting a candidate," Woerner said during the council's regular meeting on Monday.
The list of applicants includes a variety of community members who have lived in Livermore for as brief as one year to as long as over 40 years. City commissioners, local business owners, military veterans, educators and college students are among the diverse group of contenders.
Past City Council election candidates are also vying for the open seat, including Realtor and former police officer Mony Nop, medical account manager Pete Patterson and former city planning commissioner Neal Pann.
As part of the new approach to the application process, Woerner also suggested that instead of asking the applicants a series of questions that they each answer, the council will ask one two-part question and allow up to five minutes per person to respond.
"I agree with interviewing everyone," Councilman Bob Carling said. "One of the things that I am reminded of is that when we were setting up the Equity and Inclusion Working Group, we had first talked about 18 members. But we got 50 applicants, and the mayor and vice mayor decided to include everybody. So I think in the spirit of equity and inclusion, interviewing all 21 is the right thing to do."
The applicants are vying to finish out the unexpired City Council term vacated by Woerner after voters elevated him to mayor in the general election. Woerner ran for mayor this fall in the middle of the four-year regular council term he won at-large in 2018 -- which was the city's final election before switching to district-based voting.
By keeping the vacant position at-large, the city opened the application process to all city residents; although, the seat will be assigned to District 1 (northwest Livermore) starting in 2022, so the appointee would have to reside in District 1 (or District 2) to run for re-election.
The first part of the question that Woerner proposed will ask each applicant to identify what they think are the most important decisions facing the council over the course of the term, which ends in December 2022. The second part asks them to explain why they should be selected for the role.
Woerner assigned Carling to write out the formal wording of the question and submit it to the city clerk.
During public comment Monday, Nop suggested that the council include a handful of members of the Equity and Inclusion Working Group to participate in the interview and selection process.
"Why not include maybe five members of the Equity and Inclusion Subcommittee to be part of the decision process so this way, you would have a vote of a total of nine instead of just the four of you," Nop said. "It would make it an odd number so this way everybody has the opportunity to speak up and also to be part of a process."
After some discussion, the council decided that selecting members of the working group to participate would add an extra step that would extend the overall process of filling the seat.
"If we were to add others to our deliberations, then we'd have an application process for that? I don't know how you'd ever close that loop," Woerner said.
Instead, the council agreed that since the process will be held publicly, community members can share their input with the council in public comment and participate in the discussion without holding a formal vote -- as the final decision must come from the council, according to city attorney Jason Alcala.
Following the group interview, the four sitting council members will select their top three choices and submit them to the city clerk who will then collate the lists and look for any overlap between them. Once the lists are narrowed and have been consolidated, the council will deliberate and select an appointee who will officially be sworn in on Jan. 25.
A complete recording of Monday night’s meeting is available here.
The 21 applicants
Arthur Barinque: Livermore Valley Performing Arts Center education manager, Livermore Arts Commission member.
Regina Bonanno: Retired Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory scientist/program manager, City Asset Management Program Committee chair and Livermore Planning Commission member.
Evan Branning: Culinary arts instructor at Village High School in Pleasanton, Livermore Human Services Commission chair, Unify Livermore co-founder, Tri-Valley Transit Coalition co-founder and Alameda County Public Health Commission District 1 member.
Jeffrey Hateley: CFO of Livermore-based Baca Properties and U.S. Marines veteran.
Abigail Helfer: Life and business coach, business mentor and former veterinary clerk and office manager for Army Veterinary Treatment Facilities.
Greg Janssen: Vice president at Chef's Warehouse.
Dennis Kai: Senior executive sales representative at GlaxoSmithKline and U.S. Army veteran.
Christine Lusty: Self-employed seamstress and former Chamber of Commerce member and ambassador.
Melissa Lynch: FABS Group, Inc. property manager.
Darci Martin: Apple Inc. data engineer.
Nathaniel Moore: Medidata Solutions Inc. senior security analyst.
Mony Nop: CEO of Mony Nop Real Estate, Inc., former Livermore police officer, Tri-Valley Nonprofit Alliance co-founder and 2020 mayor candidate.
Faith Nordvik: Full-time student studying political science at the University of California, Merced.
Neal Pann: Togawa Smith Martin, Inc. project architect, Livermore Downtown Inc. board member, former Planning Commission member and 2018 council candidate.
Pete Patterson: Medical sales account manager at McKesson and 2020 council candidate.
Eric Payne: Sales representative at Henry Schein and former Mountain House Community Services District president.
Kyra Pervere: Teacher at William Mendenhall Middle School in Livermore.
Alex Shezifi: Owner and IT manager at Ace Computer Systems Inc. and former Livermore Airport Advisory Commission chair.
Jennifer Spriggs: Owner and agent at Jennifer Spriggs Insurance Agency.
Samantha Valdez: Tri-Valley Haven communications specialist and former intern to Congressman Eric Swalwell.
Jennifer Vierra: Musco Family Olive Company marketing brand manager.