The Seattle City Council in a bit of a surprise went with new blood instead of an old colleague to fill an open seat.
On Friday afternoon it voted to appoint Kirsten Harris-Talley to the vacant District 8 seat. It was relinquished when Tim Burgess was appointed Mayor by the same Council.
Harris-Talley went through a week-long public audition and interview of sorts in order to secure the seat.
It started Monday when the Council was officially handed a list of 15 candidates who applied for the short-term role. Former Council President and longtime council member Nick Licata had the strongest experience of any applicant. However, the councilmembers relayed Friday how impressed they were with Harris-Talley and Abel Pacheco, who also applied.
Harris-Talley has been a community activist, who was part of the "Block The Bunker" campaign to stop the construction of a new North Seattle Police Precinct.
Pacheco, who ran against Rob Johnson, works for the University of Washington.
Multiple councilmembers expressed an interest in seeking a diverse voice for the position, which will only last 51 days.
Harris-Talley was nominated by Council President Bruce Harrell and received votes from Mike O'Brien, Sally Bagshaw, Lorena Gonzalez, and Kshama Sawant. Pacheco was nominated by Debora Juarez and received her's and Johnson's vote. Licata was nominated by his former staffer, councilmember Lisa Herbold, and received her vote.
Five votes were needed to advance.
She said after the vote that she wants to focus on police accountability and opportunities in the budget, and as far as homeless spending, would like to see what "pieces that can be put in upstream services, so (the homeless) don't need services in the first place."
When asked why an activist would want a position in government, she added that "sometimes you have to make noise to get above the fray," but "what government's role is – is to be a conduit for the voice of the people".
The decision now makes the Council arguably the most diverse in history. It is now majority-minority, and six of the nine councilmembers are women.
Harris-Talley will hold the seat until November when the results of the Jon Grant-Teresa Mosqueda race are certified.