Six applicants have expressed interest in filling the single vacancy on the Billings City Council created by the resignation last month of one of the council's Heights representatives.
Larry Brewster, who represented the Heights along with Frank Ewalt, announced his resignation in November after his wife's retirement. Brewster is retired, and he and his wife plan to spend their newfound free time traveling to visit grandchildren.
Brewster had served three years of his four-year term. As a result, whoever is appointed to replace him on the council will have to run next year to keep the seat.
Originally, eight people applied for Brewster's Ward 2 seat. One dropped out this week to throw his support behind a colleague. The other dropped out after learning his home was on an island of county land that sits within Ward 2 boundaries. Applicants are required to live within the boundaries of the ward they represent.
The remaining six candidates are Jared Le Fevre, Jennifer Merecki, Roger Gravgaard, Thomas Zurbuchen, Roy Neese and Jennifer Owen.
Mayor Bill Cole names the replacement, but the city council has to vote to approve it. Under the city charter, the council is to give its "advice and consent" on the mayor's appointment.
And it'll be a tough decision, Cole said. They have a wealth of candidates.
"You always get great candidates when you don't have to run for election," he said.
The candidates range from attorneys to business owners to retirees; all of them have either served on the Billings Heights Task Force or various community boards. Each expressed a desire to represent Heights' interests and to see the area continue to thrive.
The council will vote to appoint the new member at its Dec. 17 meeting. Brewster's resignation took effect Nov. 30 and by law the city council has 30 days to fill the vacancy. Should it take longer, the city would have to call a special election.
Cole is asking council members to send him their top three choices from the six. He is also interviewing each candidate individually. For Cole, it's important the applicant have credibility in the Heights, the time to devote to the position and the work ethic to fill the requirements.
"It's a very hard decision," Cole said. "None of them are perfect, but many of them are very good."