Sequim gets new leadership

Dubois, Hays elected in a 5-0 vote

During a special meeting of the Sequim City Council, new member Laura Dubois was elected mayor and former running mate Ken Hays was elected mayor pro tem. Both nominations received 5-0 votes. Council members Bill Huizinga and Paul McHugh were unable to attend the Jan. 4 meeting.

"I’m very excited and it’s an awesome responsibility," Dubois said after being sworn in as a council member on Jan. 2.

"Now the work begins. There’s a lot of work to be done, and I’m ready for the challenge. It’s scary and exciting," Hays said.

The Jan. 4 special meeting was called by the four new council members: Dubois, Hays, Erik Erichsen and Susan Lorenzen. According to Lorenzen, they called the meeting because they wanted to have input on the upcoming, regularly scheduled Jan. 14 session, but the only way they could accomplish this was by to be sworn in and call for a meeting.

""There are some things we wanted to accomplish before Jan. 14 and we wanted to weigh in on the agenda for Jan. 14," Lorenzen recently told the Sequim Gazette.

By law, any three council members can call a special meeting as long as they notify the rest of the council 24 hours prior to the actual meeting.

The meeting’s agenda was sparse. In addition to the election of mayor and mayor pro tem, the council discussed the process involved with selecting a new member of the planning commission and reviewed the items planned for the upcoming regular meeting. There was also an executive session item involving possible litigation involving Elk Creek Apartments. There were no motions other than the election of Dubois and Hays, and it was decided that many of the items discussed would be left until the Jan. 14 meeting.

The concept of the special meeting didn’t sit well with some residents and fellow council members.

""The first I ever heard of the meeting was when I opened my Gazette that morning," said Councilman Paul McHugh, who was out of town and unable to attend the meeting. McHugh says that he was disappointed by the new council members’ actions of calling a meeting on such short notice, and he plans on addressing the matter come Jan. 14.

"We honest to goodness didn’t know those two guys (McHugh and Huizinga) would be out of town," Lorenzen said.

The new council also has requested that two additional study sessions be held, on Jan. 23 and Jan. 30. According to Hays, the study sessions would help to trim the agenda items scheduled for regular meetings. Lorenzen added that the study sessions — which would largely be held during the day – would make it easier for many Sequim residents (mostly retirees) to participate in their local government. Others, like McHugh, disagree, saying that such special meetings and study sessions actually exclude a number of people, from staff members to residents, from attending precisely because they’re held during the day.

"I question the justification for three special meetings this month, especially when there is very little scheduled for the next two regular meetings. Additionally I’m concerned for the openness and involvement of the business community," said resident Mike McAleer. "Regular meetings are scheduled in the evenings when local business people can attend, while these special meetings have been scheduled during the day when most of us cannot get away."

Although differences remain, former mayor Walt Schubert spoke of his willingness to put the past behind and work as a whole council, not factions.

"This has been a difficult time for all of us and feelings were hurt, but we need to get over that," Schubert said. "We’ve all been elected and we’re all here to serve."