Columbia Heights City Council remains split on appointment votes

The Columbia Heights City Council remains split when it comes to deciding who to appoint to the vacant seat.

The council continued the appointment process with a third round of interviews at a special meeting held on April 3. The meeting was in continuation of the March 27 meeting where the council interviewed Sean Broom and Nick Novitsky. The council cast a split vote on both candidates, with Mayor Donna Schmitt and Councilmember Connie Buesgens voting for Broom and Councilmembers John Murzyn Jr. and Bobby Williams voting for Novitsky.

During the April 3 meeting, the council called upon eight candidates to interview one-by-one. Candidates included Tim Fitze, Frost Simula, Denelle Bing, Christine Nelson, Ted Landwehr, Jerry Klein, Bruce Nawrocki and Stan Hoium.

Candidate Nick Novitsky interviewing with the council during the March 27 meeting. The council ultimately voted 2-2 to appoint Novitsky for the open seat. Williams and Murzyn voted for Novitsky and Schmitt and Buesgens voted to appoint candidate Sean Broom. (Sun Focus photo by Sarah Burghardt)
Candidate Nick Novitsky interviewing with the council during the March 27 meeting. The council ultimately voted 2-2 to appoint Novitsky for the open seat. Williams and Murzyn voted for Novitsky and Schmitt and Buesgens voted to appoint candidate Sean Broom. (Sun Focus photo by Sarah Burghardt)

When it came time to present names and cast a vote, Schmitt asked for the councilmembers to choose one candidate that they thought would receive three of four votes.

Buesgens chose Tim Fitze because Fitze had received four votes when the council took a straw poll initially following the first round of interviews. The straw poll indicated which candidates the council wanted to consider and learn more about. She also referenced his experience as a coach, which Williams had acknowledged during his interview, as well as his experience as a teacher.

Williams and Murzyn both selected Bruce Nawrocki.

“He’s here, he’s willing to serve, and I really respect Bruce and what he’s done for the city,” Williams said.

“He’s a smart guy. He knows his stuff about the city and he’s made a lot of smart decisions over the years,” Murzyn said.

Schmitt selected Ted Landwehr.He’s not anybody’s first choice, but he seems to be someone that could bring us stability to this council that I think we need right now,” Schmitt said.

Schmitt also referenced that Landwehr had received more votes in the Columbia Heights School Board election than the other two candidates that were voted on at the last meeting. At previous meetings, Williams and Murzyn have taken a stance of sticking with the votes of the residents which contributed to their reasoning of supporting Novitsky for the vacant seat.

Motions to appoint Nawrocki and Landwehr both received 2-2 votes, with Williams and Murzyn voting for Nawrocki and Schmitt and Buesgens voting for Landwehr.

Another candidate that was unable to attend the special meeting, Tammy Diehm, was also given consideration, but also ended in a 2-2 split.

Murzyn put Diehm’s name forth because she had previously served on the council.

“She always seemed level-headed when it came to making decisions. It didn’t seem like she was the type of person to cause a conflict. She always dug in to make sure all her sources were right before she made her decision,” Murzyn said.

Buesgens said she was unsure in supporting Diehm because she had said she was applying for the position as a “fill-in space.” Buesgens said there are two important aspects coming in the next two years: completion of the comprehensive plan and the Hy-Vee potentially drawing in additional development.

“Plus, according to the people that I spoke with last summer and fall [while door knocking,] and a lot of them were seniors, that they wanted new faces, and she has been on the city council before,” Buesgens said.

The council decided to table discussion for the next council meeting on April 10.

Contact Sarah Burghardt at [email protected]

The Columbia Heights City Council held a third round of interviews during a special meeting held on April 3. Pictured, Tim Fitze interviews with the council. (Sun Focus photo by Sarah Burghardt) Candidate Ted Landwehr interviewing with the council at the April 3 special meeting. (Sun Focus photo by Sarah Burghardt)
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The Columbia Heights City Council held a third round of interviews during a special meeting held on April 3. Pictured, Tim Fitze interviews with the council. (Sun Focus photo by Sarah Burghardt)