Tacoma City Council has selected a new member for Tacoma Public Utilities Board, although one member of the council raised objections about the decision.
On June 5 the council selected Christine Cooley for the position. She will begin her five-year term on July 1. She works as Climate Resiliency Program manager for Pierce Conservation District. She is also on Sustainable Tacoma Commission, an advisory board for the City’s Office of Sustainability.
She will replace Monique Trudnowski, who joined the board in 2013 and is currently the chair. Of the five current members, three are currently serving in their second term. Councilmember Conor McCarthy raised concerns about the process. He felt Trudnowski has been a strong asset for TPU as the organization searched for a new director and her efforts on various projects. He applauded her mentorship role to students in Clover Park School District. Until recently a co-owner of a Tacoma restaurant, McCarthy described her as a strong voice for small businesses. He noted he does not always agree with Trudnowski’s political views. “We have a good chair in Monique Trudnowski,” he said. “I believe she should be allowed to serve her community.”
McCarthy also voiced concern about the fact that fellow Councilmember Ryan Mello is executive director of Pierce Conservation District. Selecting Cooley could be seen as a conflict of interest, according to McCarthy. Mello is a member of the four-member committee that examined applications for the board position. Mello recused himself from that vote, as well as the vote of the full council. Mello said Cooley does not report to him at work.
Mayor Victoria Woodards thanked Trudnowski for her five years of service. “I think she has been a great leader at TPU.”
The city has numerous boards and commissions. Many of the positions are open to the general public, which typically means a city resident who is 18 or older. Some have positions set aside for people with particular expertise. For example, the Planning Commission has a position for a person with a background in architecture. Woodards would like the city to examine having areas of expertise for the TPU Board. Councilmember Anders Ibsen, who chair’s the Council’s Government Performance and Finance Committee, said it would take up this issue as part of a larger review of the city’s boards and committees. Councilmember Catherine Ushka said when she served on Charter Review Committee in 2014, that body considered this but opted not to recommend it.