Along with the introductions of a new mayor and two recently elected council members, the first Liberty Lake City Council meeting of 2012 included the news that Ryan Romney, a representative of the governing board since 2009, would need to be replaced.
Romney, one of three council members who had been serving on the Finance Committee, announced his decision to step down on Dec. 27, citing family reasons and obligations through work and his church. He is also working on a master’s degree.
“I’m just trying to figure out how to manage my time best,” Romney said. “There are lots of talented people who can step in and pick up right where I left off.”
At the Jan. 3 council meeting, Mayor Steve Peterson announced that applications for City Council would be accepted until 4 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 16, with the standing City Council interviewing applicants at the scheduled meeting on Jan. 17. That timeline has since changed to allow time for a legal publication of the vacancy. The new deadline for applications is 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 25. A special meeting of the City Council has been set for Tuesday, Jan. 31 at which council applicants will be interviewed.
Romney joined the City Council in May 2009 when he was appointed to replace inaugural Council Member Brian Sayrs. He ran alone on the November 2009 general election ballot, winning a place at the dais through 2013.
Romney – who missed 11 council meetings last year due to scheduling conflicts – said the absences don’t fully reflect the overall time he dedicated to the office.
“You have to look at all the extra meetings, trainings and retreats,” he said.
Romney spoke out on a number of pivotal issues during his tenure, including the idea of a regional transportation benefit district that he felt would be of marginal benefit to Liberty Lake. The plan would have dispersed funding for road projects based on the number of residents and vehicle miles traveled. Liberty Lake would have received less than 2 percent of the TBD, or around $245,000 annually.
“If you’re the city of Spokane, it’s a great idea; but not for Liberty Lake,” Romney said.
Romney was also an outspoken critic of the idea to form a central business district in the middle of Liberty Lake, a move that would include reducing Liberty Lake Road to one lane in both directions. Romney said the plan would actually hinder commercial efforts in a town that has worked to promote retail viability since incorporating in 2001.
The scenario involving Romney parallels a situation in Spokane County’s easternmost city from January 2010 when longtime Council Member and former Mayor Pro Tem Patrick Jenkins announced he would be moving out of the area because of a job relocation. Cris Kaminskas, who had run against Josh Beckett the previous November for a council seat vacated by Neal Olander, was one of four candidates to apply for Jenkins’ position.
Kaminskas was appointed to City Council in late January 2010. She said staying updated on municipal issues throughout much of 2009 meant being prepared when the opportunity arose to apply.
“It helped to have been at the council meetings and done my homework,” Kaminskas said.
The only applicant to emerge for the latest council vacancy is another aspirant from a general election who fell just short of victory last November. Keith Kopelson, a Liberty Lake business owner, ran against Shane Brickner on the autumn ballot, losing by a margin of 51.53 to 47.32 percent, or a mere 77 votes.