Your New City Council Member, For Real
Defying expectations (and, in several cases, council members’ own predictions) that the city council would choose a woman of color to replace Jim Compton, the council went with former Tina Podlodowski aide and current Lifelong AIDS Alliance community resources director Sally Clark, one of six finalists for the position.
Council members said they were swayed by Clark’s impressive performance at her interview, and by the unequivocally positive reviews she received from colleagues and former employers. Several also said they were impressed by the “mature, responsible” way Clark responded to news that the five minority candidates for the position (all of them, in other words, but her) had banded together in an informal social group they called the “sisterhood”. Clark told the Times: “I think it’s great and I would love to have dinner with them. But I feel I’ve amassed my own support group and I’ve been busy enough doing my due diligence and studying issues.”
Clark received the largest number of points in the initial round of voting, and was one of four finalists to receive nominations. (Venus Velazquez and Ven Knox didn’t make the cut). The council deadlocked 4-4 on Sharon Maeda and Stella Chao, and finally voted 6-2 for Clark,, with David Della and Richard McIver voting no. Then, as a gesture of confidence, they took another vote to make it unanimous.
After the vote, council president Nick Licata said Clark was the only finalist who didn’t “raise red flags” with at least one council member. “Every other candidate had a myriad of concerns, most of them really minor,” Licata said. Jan Drago said that when she checked Clark’s references, “it was just astonishing - all of her former bosses were just profusely positive.”
Council members and staff seemed surprised but mostly pleased at the council’s choice. (Because it wasn’t a straight up-or-down vote, a straightforward count of council members’ top choices wouldn’t necessarily indicate who would get the position.) Drago said she had expected the job to go to Dolores Sibonga, who served on the council throughout the ’80s. Meanwhile, a bleary-eyed Tom Rasmussen, who had been up all night at the One-Night Count of the homeless, said he “never would have predicted it. Never, never, never.”
Clark is the first out lesbian member of the council since Podlodowski, who served on the council from 1996 to 1999. And she is the first young woman on the council since Judy Nicastro and Heidi Wills, who both lost their seats in 2003.
Even as council members were absorbing the news about Clark, the gay-rights bill passed in Olympia, prompting Drago to yell to Podlodowski, to whom she was talking on her cell phone, “Oh my God! What a day!” The council will swear in Clark on February 6.