After nearly four hours of conducting interviews and weighing their options among eight applicants, the Douglas City Council chose former councilman Monty Gilbreath to replace Karl Hertz Monday.
Gilbreath was on the council the past four years and ran to retain his spot in November but lost the election to construction businessman Ron McNare and Karl Hertz. Hertz resigned shortly after the election when he accepted a job in Alaska. Businessman Perry Hershberger came in third on the ballot, ahead of Gilbreath, and had also sought the appointment. McNare received 1,557 votes and Hertz had 1,023, compared to Hershberger’s 1005 and Gilbreath’s 939 votes.
In a quick, quiet 3-1 vote following the executive session, the council passed a motion by John Bartling and seconded by Kim Pexton with McNare – who had been sworn in earlier Monday evening – in favor. Mayor Rene Kemper cast the lone opposing vote.
“I don’t want to let the voters down because they put us into office,” Kemper said Tuesday, referring to how the general election vote tally ended and why she voted no Monday. “It’s our job to listen to them.”
Though Gilbreath is filling Hertz’s spot, he will only fill it until the next general election in November 2022, when he would need to be elected to finish the final two years of Hertz’ four-year term.
“I just felt that we weren’t done. I wasn’t done,” Gilbreath said after being appointed. “We have a lot to do. We want to make a positive impact on Douglas, and we did in the (last) four years. We accomplished a lot, and I don’t know if people really realize how much was accomplished.”
Gilbreath stressed the need for the council to be patient in these uncertain times and not to get carried away with budget cuts while still prioritizing improvement needs.
Before the council chose Gilbreath, they interviewed him and seven other applicants: former Mayor and current city employee Sherri Mullinnix (who said she is retiring from the city Jan. 22), realtor and businesswoman Ryan Andrews, Oneoke plant operator Ryan Marcus, Wyoming national Guard Officer Russell Neice, Hershberger, former Mayor and MHCC employee Bruce Jones and bar owner and Devon Energy mechanic Scott Bauman.
Gilbreath, who is the nutrition services and rec center director for the Douglas School District, has been heavily involved in many public projects, but the most notable recent one was the two failed efforts to convince voters to approve taxes to build recreation centers in Douglas and Glenrock.
Each applicant was given 25 minutes for their interview and was asked two questions by each councilmember. The rec center issue was raised by a couple of the candidates during their interviews.
Applicants were interviewed individually in the council chambers as most waited upstairs. County Commissioner Jim Willox filled Hertz’s spot on the council during the interview process and asked questions but didn’t have an official vote on the outcome.
Councilmembers and Willox asked each applicant the same series of questions. Some focused on outlining applicants’ experience that would help them contribute on the council, if they had worked with a large budget before and if they understood the dynamic between the council and city employees.
They also asked applicants about the issues facing Douglas were, why they wanted to serve and what their top priorities would be if appointed.
Mullinnix had an impressive background suited for the position, having served on numerous boards, including the Douglas Planning and Commission Board and Historic Preservation Committee and as a previous mayor. During her interview she outlined her desire to attract more small, viable businesses to Douglas, stimulating economic development.
Andrews also focused on economic strategies. She outlined her desire to diversify the local economy with business outside of the energy field. She serves on The Enterprise board and is president of the Douglas Board of Realtors.
Marcus admitted during his interview that he hadn’t served on a governing board before but stressed that he was willing to learn, and his experience as a contractor would be beneficial when working on city projects. He also wanted to attract more business to the city.
Neice serves on the Converse County Airport Board and told the council he felt his military background taught him viable leadership and strategic skills. He addressed housing shortages and his desire to diversify the economy to offset our city’s all-too-familiar boom and bust cycles.
Hershberger stressed to the council that he could bring a different perspective to the position and could effectively echo the needs of the local people. Like many applicants, he addressed the city’s dwindling employment rates and need to bring economic diversity into the community.
Jones reminded the council about his previous city experience and said connections at the state and federal levels would be invaluable to the city in these uncertain times. He stressed the need to maintain the city’s infrastructure.
Bauman, an Enterprise Board member who owns the College Inn with his wife, said his experience as a small business owner and being a ‘jack-of-all-trades’ would be valuable to the position. He continued that his practical knowledge allows him to understand how cause and effect would apply in the “real world.” Like many applicants, he outlined the economic issues Douglas is facing and the need for a solid infrastructure.
“With that many people who have a heart for Douglas, it’s just so tough to decide who to choose,” Kemper said after the council appointed Gilbreath. “Every single person had a strength. If you could just take them all and make just one person, you would have the ideal council person.”
Gilbreath will officially be sworn to the council before its next normal meeting Jan. 11.