City council rejects proposal to fill president vacancy

Published: Jun. 26, 2018 at 7:46 PM CDT
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Two weeks ago, Andrew Werthmann became acting president of the Eau Claire City Council – a governing body with plenty of new faces on it.

Heading into this past April’s election, the council had a combined 78 years of experience. Since then, four members were voted out and Kerry Kincaid stepped down – depleting it by 50 years.

Heading into Tuesday night’s legislative session, those members were saluted for their years of service. Two of them – David Klinkhammer and Bob Von Haden – were back in the council chambers they presided in for a combined 26 years.

"I am honored to have served at many different city councils, plus worked with many different city managers and their staffs who helped and directed us," Von Haden said.

The direction of the council presidency, however, produced nearly 30 minutes of debate – a sizable chunk of the council’s meeting.

A proposal was laid before members calling for applications to be taken and the winning candidate would assume the role as president August 13th. When it came time to cast their votes, it was experience which dictated their decisions.

Werthmann has the most experience on the council with nine years. Despite his vote for the plan, it was rejected, with four members – Dave Strobel, Terry Weld, Emily Anderson, and Jill Christopherson – striking it down.

“We have 4 brand new council members and myself, with only one year,” Weld said, during debate on the proposal. “To add a brand new city council president with potentially no experience on top of that, I don't think is serving the best interest of Eau Claire.

“I think they look at us to make sure that we're making the right decisions for them and that we have the right people in place to make those decisions.”

"I personally think that the council right now needs continuity,” Strobel said. “I think there are four experienced council members with five years or more that that could adequately serve as council president right now."

This means Werthmann will remain as the body's acting president, until a special election is held in April of 2019. That election winner will serve out the remainder of the president’s term, running until April of 2020.

"I laid it on the side of opening up at large. I would have applied as well, and I think there's probably other people in the community that would have had an interest in applying for being the council president,” he said to WEAU 13 News on Tuesday. “There's a healthy number of people in our community who have talked about running for city council and so a lot of names already come to my mind for folks who might run at large, but who might run for presidency in the future."

The Eau Claire City Council will remain with 10 members until next April and let stand a vacancy left from the sudden resignation of Kerry Kincaid as body president.

During Tuesday’s legislative session from the body, four members – Dave Strobel, Terry Weld, Emily Anderson, and Jill Christopherson – voted against a plan to open a period of accepting applications for acting city council president. If it would have passed, a winning candidate would have assumed their role as president August 13th.

However, many members said experience was a reason for casting their votes – for and against the proposal.

Andrew Werthmann will remain the city council’s acting president as well as its member for District 5, which comprises much of downtown and Water St. area. Kincaid resigned on June 12th, citing "It has become impossible to govern in a manner befitting a city that works."

We’ll have more on the vote tonight on WEAU 13 News at 10.