When the Maplewood City Council meets for the first time in the New Year, it will be two bodies short of a full dais.
Mayor Nora Slawik, who was elected to her second term in November, has been appointed chairwoman of the Metropolitan Council by Gov.-elect Tim Walz.
And Council Member Tou Xiong, whose first term was set to expire in 2020, was elected to the state House of Representatives. The council now will have to figure out how to replace two of its five members.
Council Member Bryan Smith characterized it as "a short-term problem but a long-term gain" for the city, since both Slawik and Xiong will have a say on major regional and statewide issues.
"We're going to have someone from the east metro, which can sometimes be forgotten, now leading the Met Council," he said. "And Tou is going to be a very thoughtful, deliberate legislator and a great advocate."
The first thing council members need to decide is what to do about the mayor's office, said City Manager Melinda Coleman.
One option would be for the three remaining council members to determine who among them should serve as interim mayor until the next general election in 2020, and then interview candidates to fill the two open City Council seats, Coleman said. Both seats are up for election in 2020.
"That's the key point — state law allows us to make appointments until the next general election, so we won't need a special election, which would cost $50,000," Coleman said.
Council members plan to decide how to move forward at their next meeting on Jan. 14.
Slawik, who was elected to seven terms in the Legislature before becoming mayor in 2014, said she's excited that she'll be able to continue working on the Gold and Rush rapid-transit bus lines connecting St. Paul to the outer suburbs.
"I will now chair the Southwest light-rail meetings and have such a great chance to work on affordable housing, modern transit and equity," she said.
"The city is in a really good place right now with the Rush and the Gold lines moving forward, with our new police chief and two new housing developments on the way," Slawik said. "I feel good about what we were able to do and this path of success we've been on over the last several years."
Said Coleman: "It's going to require change without Nora and Tou, which is always a little uncertain. But they're still working for the residents of Maplewood, so it's kind of a loss but it's a win, too."