Forty or so people crammed into Lakeland City Hall Tuesday night and repeatedly broke into laughter and applause throughout six hours of a City Council workshop, forum and meeting. Mayor Richard Glasgow was not among them.
It was a marked change from the tense City Council meetings (and non-meetings) of the past several months. By the end, the council had filled its two open seats and approved a long-awaited street project.
"It was a really positive, productive night," said Council Member Joe Paiement. "But I was hoping against hope the mayor would be here and work with us."
After an open forum and workshop to hear from six candidates for the open council seats, Mike Thron and Lisa LaRoque Williams received the top scores and took the oath of office. They were seated at the start of the meeting.
"I'm excited to be a part of helping the city move forward," Williams said.
Thron and Williams both began publicly questioning the city's leadership last year, when they discovered that former City Council Member Jim Stanton held several paid positions with the city, including public works commissioner.
Stanton resigned in February, launching the disagreement over how to fill council vacancies. Then a second council member resigned in May.
Glasgow said Wednesday that he believes Thron and Williams aren't valid council members, arguing that the council didn't have a quorum to start Tuesday's meeting. The council typically has five members — including Glasgow — but that number had dropped to three with the recent resignations.
The mayor continued to stand by his unilateral attempt to appoint Doug Sand to the first open seat. He has filed a complaint with the Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility, saying the city attorney failed to clarify why the Sand appointment was unlawful.
During Tuesday's meeting, the council voted 4-0 to approve a $1.4 million street reconstruction and stormwater basin project on Quality Avenue. That project had been delayed because of the numerous canceled council meetings this year.
"The fact they approved it does give me hope that this council will work out," Glasgow said.
The council also approved the hiring of Swanson Haskamp Consulting of St. Paul to take over the city's zoning and planning services, one of the roles that Stanton was contracted to perform.
Another 4-0 vote determined that the city clerk once again will have control of the city's newsletter and website, rather than the mayor.
Though the meeting ran for several hours, the mood never turned contentious.
"It feels great," Williams said as she walked out of City Hall. "This was such a long time coming."
Thron agreed. "It's refreshing to see people who can work together," he said. "And it's a totally different mood when that one guy doesn't show up."