Justin Scott was sworn in as the new Ward 5 councilman at Tuesday’s Grand Island City Council meeting.
The council voted 7-2 to accept Mayor Roger Steele’s recommendation of Scott for the seat, with Councilmen Mitch Nickerson and Mike Paulick voting no.
Nickerson and Paulick didn’t object to Scott’s qualifications, but the process that Steele used to select him.
On Aug. 13, Ward 5 Councilwoman Michelle Fitzke announced her intention to resign her position effective Aug. 27. Fitzke and her husband had purchased a home outside of Ward 5.
The city issued a press release asking people in Ward 5 interested in being named to the council to apply to the city by Sept. 6. At that time, three people applied, Doug Lanfear, Jeb Wolsleben and John Gericke. Scott submitted his application for the seat on Oct. 21.
Prior to Tuesday’s council meeting, Steele sought the input of other council members before making his recommendation.
At Tuesday’s meeting, the mayor said he selected Scott based on three reasons. First, Scott fulfilled his goal of attracting young people to serve in city government. Along with council members Jeremy Jones and Jason Conley, Scott would make up a “core of younger people who will lead our community for many years.”
A second reason Steele said he choose Scott was his experience in managing information technology systems, which the mayor said would be helpful to the council in analyzing IT systems for the city. Scott manages the information technology systems at Hornady Manufacturing.
Thirdly, Steele said he picked Scott for the job because of his “impressive background of service to our community.”
Among Scott’s community involvement are: Board of Directors for Leadership Tomorrow, Technology Advisory Board member at Career Pathway Institute, Technology Advisory member at Stuhr Museum, Parent Advisory Council representative at Newell Elementary School, youth program coach at Third City Christan Church and past board member of the Salvation Army.
Nickerson’s main objection was that he interpreted the city’s press release as setting a Sept. 6 deadline for applying for the council seat.
Since Scott didn’t submit his application until Oct. 21, Nickerson said the city should have issued a public statement that they were still accepting applications for the job. Such a notification may have encouraged others to apply for the vacant seat.
For that reason, both Nickerson and Paulick felt that Scott was not eligible to be named to the council.
But Steele said he followed the procedure required by City Code Section 2-25, which says, “The mayor shall fill by appointment any vacancy which may exist, caused by death, resignation or disability of any elective officer of the City. Such appointment of the mayor shall be subject, however, to approval of the majority of the council.”
He said setting the date of Sept. 6 for applications to be submitted was to get the process going, not a deadline. Steele said he did not solicit more applications for the seat, but felt obligated to the voters of Ward 5 to look at any application that was submitted.
Steele also said it was a courtesy on his part to get input from the council on the people who applied for the job, not an obligation.
Scott will fulfill the remainder of Fitzke’s term, which expires at the end of 2022.
At the meeting, he said, “I am excited to serve my community and represent Ward 5. There are some big shoes to fill in the absence of Mrs. Fitzke. I am looking forward to learning and serving with the current members. I thank my family for support and am humbled by the appointment to city council.”