Pacific unable to reach consensus to fill vacant City Council seat

Pacific Municipal Court Judge Stephen Rochon waited in the background to swear in the City’s newest addition to the City Council.

He never got the chance.

The council could not reach a consensus Monday night on any of the five candidates who had applied to complete the remainder of the Position 7 term that expires Dec. 31. That means the position will not be filled until March – at the earliest – because, Mayor Leanne Guier said, the opening will be re-posted Friday and the City will accept applications for two weeks after that point.

Justin Newlun created the vacancy in January when he announced he would be moving out of Pacific. His final meeting was Feb. 6. The council selected Newlun on Jan. 25, 2016 to succeed Tren Walker, who had resigned because he was moving.

After deliberating for nearly 30 minutes in executive session, the council reconvened. Council member Stacy Oliveira spoke in support of Don Thomson, an Air Force veteran who has lived in Pacific since 1990.

“I think Don has shown … how dedicated he is to the city,” she said. “He does a lot for the community.”

Council members Vic Kave and Clint Steiger also voted in favor of Thomson’s appointment. But Katie Garberding, Kerry Garberding and Dave Storaasli, who won the Position 6 seat in November 2015 over Thomson, voted against his appointment.

Katie Garberding then recommended the appointment of Samantha Niemi, a stay-at-home mom.

“She’s fresh, she’s new, and I believe she has links to the community,” she said.

Kerry Garberding and Storaasli supported her appointment, while Kave, Oliveira and Steiger voted against it. Kave said his vote was based on a desire to find a candidate with more experience. He then nominated Howard Erickson, who was the mayor of Pacific from 1976-84 and 2000-04.

“Some people may not agree with Howard’s politics, but sometimes it’s good to have different opinions,” he said, adding that those lead to debate.

Kave, Oliveira and Storaasli voted in favor of the nomination, while Steiger and the Garberdings were against it.

No one on the council made a motion to support the two other candidates, Debbie Aubrey and Jonathan Poff, for the opening.

Despite that, Kave said all the candidates would be reconsidered if they choose to apply again.

“I would encourage all of you to apply again,” he said.

The job posting can be found at