Tacoma has a new City Council member to represent its District 1 neighborhood just weeks after outgoing councilmember Anders Ibsen announced he was taking a leave of absence to attend training for the Marine Corps Reserve. He plans to return in about a year to finish the rest of his term.
The council held interviews for the position at its Tuesday study session and unanimously selected Joseph Lopez at the regular session that night.
Lopez was selected out of 15 applicants and appointed by the Tacoma City Council to the vacant District 1 position. Lopez will serve District 1 – which generally represents the north and west ends of Tacoma – for a term to be effective Jan. 1, 2014 and ending upon Council Member Anders Ibsen’s return from military service.
Lopez is an attorney with the firm Davis Wright Tremaine in Seattle, and he is also a graduate of the University of Washington School of Law. He began his legal career serving on active duty in the Navy.
Locally, Lopez spent three years on the city's Board of Ethics helping to revise and expand Tacoma's Code of Ethics, and he is currently a member of the Tacoma Symphony Orchestra's Board of Directors.
Lopez said the temporary appointment is that of a representative of the district and responsible to its residents.
“This is their position,” said Lopez during his interview. “This is their voice within the city.”
He said the biggest issues facing the city include finding ways to solve the large budget shortfall without impacting public safety, having a frank discussion within the city about finding ways to solve the city’s need for street repairs and upgrades as well as prompting economic development.
The call for temporary council appointment caused by Ibsen’s upcoming military service prompted a group of 15 people interviewing for the temporary position on Tuesday. The applicants ranged from a retired engineer, a real estate agent, community college instructors and a labor activist. Former council members also applied for the position as did candidates who lost to Ibsen in the election for his seat that represents the north and west ends of Tacoma. Ibsen had hoped he would be able to appoint his own replacement and picked Jordan Rash, North End Neighborhood Council co-chairman and conservation director of Forterra. The council opted to open the position to anyone living in the district and select from the pool.
Council members cited Lopez’s view of Tacoma’s roll in the region and his expertise in the legal profession. Council member Ryan Mello further liked that Lopez is a Tacoma resident who commutes to a job outside the city, which is a common practice for Tacomans that has its own challenges and points of perspective.
Lopez noted that he commutes on mass transit when he must go to his Seattle office and often spends an hour and a half or more just to return home.
“Clearly that is not workable if we are really to become part of a unified whole economically with Seattle and Bellevue,” Lopez said, noting that ridership of new trains or bus routes spike when they first start and drop off because of inconveniences within the system.
Council members are work part time for the city and receive a salary of $42,411.