Randy Wells will fill a vacancy on the Seward City Council following five rounds of voting by the body during its Nov. 8 meeting. A vacancy on the body opened after former Vice Mayor Tony Baclaan resigned last month.
Wells was one of four candidates who ran for council vacancies during the Oct. 5 municipal election. He owns the Tufted Puffin, a cannabis dispensary in Seward, and also serves on the Seward Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors. While running for election in October, Wells said he wanted to make Seward’s government more accessible to city residents.
Seward City Clerk Brenda Ballou said during the city council’s Nov. 8 meeting that three applications were submitted for consideration — from Wells, Brad Snowden and Arthur Robert Thomas. Wells’ term will expire in October of 2022.
The city council reached an impasse during that meeting when it came time for council members to vote on the applicants. Seward’s process requires the council to first vote on a candidate and then to vote to appoint that candidate to the body. The vote to appoint required at least four affirmative votes.
The body was at a standstill after the council repeatedly voted for Thomas over Wells by a vote of three to two. In all, the clerk conducted five rounds of voting. The first four rounds saw Thomas pull ahead by a vote of 3-2 for nomination but failed to be appointed after receiving the same number of votes because he failed to get the four votes required.
“Tonight we will vote (for) infinity before we get a coin toss,” Seward Mayor Christy Terry said of the cycle, noting that the odd number of council members would not result in a tie vote.
Council member Ristine Casagranda said she only heard from one of the three candidates who applied to fill the vacancy, which is what informed her vote.
“I’m voting purely on the information that I have been provided,” Casagranda said. “I’m not coming with a bias or any other information that I have before I showed up here. I find it hard to vote for any of the other candidates that I have no information on.”
A breakthrough came when the council decided to suspend their rules of order to allow two candidates — who attended the meeting in-person — to offer a statement to the council.
Brad Snowden initially appeared hesitant to speak, saying, “I didn’t even get one vote,” but ultimately agreed to address the council. Snowden said he’s lived in Seward for 55 years and that he cares about the town, but that he thought the council should extend the agenda item so that Wells could speak too.
“I would only recommend that you extend this and give them a chance to present their case (and) why they would want to be here,” Snowden said. “I certainly think that would be a fair question: Why (do) you want to fill that spot?”
Thomas, who also addressed the council during the Nov. 8 meeting, said he has lived in Seward for more than 20 years and he was initially brought to the town by the U.S. Coast Guard. Thomas said he did not reach out to council members ahead of the Nov. 8 vote because he doesn’t have a specific agenda in seeking a seat on the council.
“I wasn’t really politicking for the job. I just knew there was a vacancy (and) I’m willing to do my part as a citizen,” Thomas said. “I’ve served on the council before so I … know the ropes a little bit.”
Wells’ wife Jennifer testified on his behalf during the meeting and described him as “well-spoken” and interested in the public process. She said Randy Wells was out of town with their son as part of an arrangement made after the Oct. 5 election.
“He’s very diplomatic,” Jennifer Wells said. “He knows his position and he can speak about it very specifically.”
Former council member Tony Baclaan testified in support of Wells at the beginning of the meeting, praising Wells’ contributions to community organizations and to Seward’s business community. Baclaan said that while he doesn’t agree with Wells on every issue, he appreciates Wells’ willingness to civilly discuss and work through opposing viewpoints.
“He can bring up opposing points and we can talk about them in a civil way and we can work through things,” Baclaan said, adding that such discussions were one of his favorite parts of serving on the city council.
Council member Michael Calhoon said that his votes shouldn’t be taken personally and that he thinks council experience would bring value to the body.
“I know that nobody wants this to go on all night, but for a one-year seat I just felt that somebody that had council experience already would make a smoother transition,” Calhoon said. “Decisions that I make — I want people to know — are never personal, so I don’t want anybody to take that personally, but I’m also not totally convinced that there’s not some type of an agenda at work.”
After the fifth round of voting produced a majority for Wells, the council voted 4-1 to appoint him to the council, with Calhoun voting in opposition. Wells will be sworn in during the council’s next meeting on Nov. 22.
The council’s full Nov. 8 meeting can be viewed on the city’s YouTube channel.
Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at email@example.com.