After several weeks of deadlocked voting, Columbia Heights city leaders successfully filled a vacant City Council seat Monday night, wrapping up an appointment process that has lasted three months and attracted criticism from some residents for its lack of clarity.
Nick Novitsky, 38, is taking over a seat left vacant when former Council Member Donna Schmitt became mayor after beating the longtime incumbent in a tight November race. Novitsky, a tow truck operator, will round out the five-member council until his spot comes up for election in 2018.
Novitsky narrowly lost his bid for one of two open City Council seats last November, coming in third in the election.
The city’s charter-dictated appointment process has involved multiple rounds of interviews, special meetings and a series of 2-to-2 votes from current council members, who were divided on which of the 17 applicants should be selected for the job.
“It’s for the benefit of the city that we do not dally any longer,” Schmitt said Monday night. “We need to move on.”
Some candidates, including Novitsky, have expressed frustration with the appointment process for being vague and confusing.
Before bringing Novitsky’s name forward Monday for reconsideration, Schmitt called attention to an incident at a March work session when Novitsky “raised his voice and started blaming a council member of stalling out the nomination process.”
Schmitt said that she withdrew her initial support for Novitsky because of this outburst.
She said he apologized for the March incident in an e-mail sent to each council member, which helped sway her opinion.
“He has a heart for this city,” Schmitt said.
A split vote over another candidate then ensued before Schmitt nominated Novitsky “with reluctance,” becoming the swing vote needed to move a candidate forward.
The City Council voted 3-1 to approve Novitsky; Council Member Connie Buesgens voted against him.
At Monday’s meeting, city leaders said the appointment has been a rare point of contention among the new council. Other city business, they said, has gone smoothly.
“It’s really important that we have a functional council,” Council Member Bobby Williams said.
Novitsky is expected to be sworn in on April 24.
“It definitely was an interesting journey getting here, and I will do my best to do what’s best for the city moving forward,” Novitsky said.