The Ward 4 Selection Committee is vetting the 15 candidates for the soon-to-be-open council seat.
The committee’s first round of interviews was Aug. 20, and they continue until Wednesday. The five Ward 4 residents on the selection committee are tasked with bringing one recommendation to the council.
Current Ward 4 council member Bill Hickman is joining the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy Board of Directors. The institute does not allow active elected officials on its board.
Hickman’s last council meeting is Tuesday and his resignation officially goes into effect Wednesday.
City Clerk Brenda Hall said the council plans to fill the seat during its Sept. 10 meeting.
The process will mirror that of the Ward 6 selection committee that recommended Bill Scanlon to the council. The City Charter states any City Council vacancy shall be filled by a majority vote of the remaining members of the council for a period extending until the next regular municipal election.
The resident sworn in to the Ward 4 seat will serve until the term ends in July.
“I think just seeing kind of where we are at politically and seeing the stuff that is on the road ahead for City Council,” candidate Brent Swift said. “It kind of piqued my interest and I felt like it was an opportunity to step in and provide some help to the current city council.”
Hall said she’s not surprised by the amount of applicants, adding Ward 4 is highly engaged in local politics.
“Ward 4 is such a politically active ward. I think it’s a great comment on the residents of Ward 4 that we would have 15 people that want to put their name in,” candidate Ty Hardiman said. “We have some great applicants. Don Holladay has done some work with the civil rights ordinance, and Lee Hall, who has spent many years in Norman and is dedicated to core neighborhood things in Ward 4.”
Hall said if the committee brings forward multiple names, the council would vote on them individually. Any council motion or action requires five votes to pass.
“In situations where we have drawn out of the hat before have been because there are only eight members voting, because you have that vacant seat and we kept having a tie,” Hall said.
Five Ward 4 residents are on the selection committee: George Ahmadi, Greg Jungman, Andy Rieger, Lyntha Wesner and Emily Wilkins.
Candidate Gale Hobson was one of the first to interview. She said she’s enjoying the process and she’s excited for the potential to serve.
“I interviewed [Tuesday] and there five other residents who were willing to sit in the room and talk through and ask intelligent questions to the 15 people,” Hobson said. “This whole process says a lot about our community and our city. I’m excited about the process and I’ll run again in a year if I get selected.”
Charlie Mai, Hobson, Swift and Hardiman all said their main focuses would be the homeless population and mental health. Several candidates, including Cynthia Rogers, said their main goals are preserving Ward 4 and moving it forward with development.
“I have been an engaged and informed resident of Ward 4 for 22 years, and I feel like I have something to offer,” Rogers said. “So, I wanted to have the chance to serve my neighbors in a different capacity than I’ve been serving them already.”
Mai, who ran against Hickman in the previous election, said he would focus on the disconnect between east and west Norman. He said he has felt it for some time and would focus on that along with the homeless population and mental health.
Hardiman said being on the council is a tough job and it’s incredibly time consuming, so it’s not to be taken lightly. If a person is not selected, he said, that is not necessarily a failure, because it’s good that everyone participated and the main thing is to get someone in the seat who has Norman’s future in mind.