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Council Ad-Hoc to Weigh Options for Filling Houlihan’s Vacant Seat

Encinitas Councilwomen Teresa Barth and Kristin Gaspar will flesh out a plan to select a new council person by Nov. 15.

Encinitas City Councilwomen Teresa Barth and Kristin Gaspar will spend the next several weeks devising a plan to fill the vacant council seat created by  

Mayor James Bond tagged the two for the ad-hoc committee task during a Monday night special meeting. 

This is the first time Encinitas has seen a council vacancy mid-term, and there are a couple of ways to go about filling it: Council may decide to take applications and then appoint someone, or it could opt for a special election, which could cost more than $300,000. Barth and Gaspar will weigh the options and then return to council with a recommendation.

According to state law, once a City Council member dies, a replacement must be named within 60 days from the date of death—which in this case would be by Nov. 15. 

About 15 speakers addressed council during Monday night’s public meeting, which was heavily attended but not televised. Bond said the public meeting was not televised because he felt “spending the additional money did not make sense,” and added that he was surprised by the high turnout. 

Speaker after speaker urged council to consider the type of person Houlihan would have wanted to continue her legacy. Among them was Houlihan’s husband, Ian Thompson, who reminded council that his wife was a champion of the “less sexy issues,” including “the environment, animals and often the downtrodden.”

One likely candidate for the vacant seat is Lisa Shaffer, who Houlihan endorsed in a video recorded just days before her death.

Shaffer teaches business ethics at UCSD, where she once headed program development for the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and was the founding executive director of Sustainability Solutions Institute.

“[Lisa Shaffer] has got it all,” said Houlihan in the video, which was recorded by freelance writer and videographer Lillian Cox and played for the council Monday night. Houlihan went on the say she supported Shaffer because she is smart, has no motives or hidden agendas, and has views that fell in line with her own, including environmental stewardship and government transparency. “She’s the one I endorse to carry on my legacy.”

Another candidate suggested by some of the public speakers was , who was the next-in-line runner-up during the last council election.

Houlihan was approaching the final year of her four-year term when she died Sept. 16. At least one speaker suggested that if council decides to appoint someone, it select a person who promises not to run for re-election because the term 'incumbent' could give the misconception that he or she were voted into office.

Barth also requested that all future public meetings related to this matter be publicy broadcast, a notion that was met with applause by the audience members, some of whom were recording the meeting. 

Rich Williams September 27, 2011 at 03:35 PM
It seems fairly obvious that the most respectful choice would be to honor Maggie's wishes and appoint the person she wished to fill her seat, Lisa Shaffer. Since there is no rule as to how Council should appoint a replacement, they are free to choose as they see fit. There are likely some that would not like Ms. Shaffer to be appointed, but I would guess that the overwhelming majority of the Encinitas community would applaud Council choosing Maggie's pick.
Carol Naylor September 27, 2011 at 09:20 PM
I think the council should honor Maggie's request and select Lisa Shaffer. If Maggie thought she would be good for the job so do I. Carol Naylor
Denise Martin September 28, 2011 at 12:19 AM
Why did the council choose to drag this on? They should have made a decision on the spot at last night's meeting. What a farce. Perhaps the pro-growth trio wanted their own person and didn't want the fall-out from doing it on the spot. Why else not allow television?

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