Encinitas Fire Chief Mark Muir is the newest member of City Council. In a 3-1 vote Wednesday night, he was appointed to fill the seat that was left vacant in September by the
Mayor James Bond, Deputy Mayor Jerome Stocks and Councilwoman Kristin Gaspar all voted in favor of Muir’s appointment, saying they felt his 20 years of experience working for the city made him the most qualified candidate. Stocks cited Muir’s track record, including his work to help overhaul the fire department in an effort to enhance services to residents while saving the city money.
Councilwoman Teresa Barth did not vote for Muir’s appointment, and instead made a substitute motion to nominate Lisa Shaffer, who Houlihan that was made shortly before her death.
Several speakers also addressed council, expressing their support for candidates Shaffer or Tony Kranz, who came in third place in the 2010 council race with 8,870 votes. The speakers, which included Houlihan’s widower Ian Thompson and campaign manager Bruce Ehlers, said they felt these candidates aligned more closely with Houlihan’s views, and would therefore better serve the voters who elected her in the first place.
Muir has publically campaigned for Stocks and Bond in past elections, something Ehlers called into question Wednesday night. Gaspar and Bond said Muir was well within his right to support candidates, and Stocks added that those endorsements were not swaying his decision.
“I don’t want to make this a political appointment,” Stocks said. “I want to support the most-qualified candidate.”
Barth pointed out that this was not a typical election — but rather an appointment of someone to serve Houlihan’s constituents, and therefore felt council should honor Houlihan’s wish and select Shaffer. She also added that she thought is was “shameful” for Muir to be so highly involved in political campaigns while he was a city employee.
Gaspar reminded the public that Muir will be “but a brief custodian of the seat,” as he’ll still have to face voters in 2012 if he wants to keep his spot on council — something he has said he is about. If Muir does decide to run, he will have to use the term “appointed incumbent” to make it clear to the public that he was not elected to his seat. Both Shaffer and Kranz for council in the next election.
Muir will step down from his post as fire chief. He is also an elected board member of the Olivenhain Municipal Water District, and he will step down from that role as well. He will serve on City Council for the remainder of Houlihan’s term, which ends December 2012.
Muir will be sworn into office during City Council’s Nov. 9 meeting.
Muir’s wife, Maureen (who goes by Mo), serves on the board of trustees of the Encinitas Union School District — the school district that recently regarding the development of Pacific View Elementary.