The Columbia Heights City Council voted to appoint Nick Novitsky to the open seat on the council at the April 10 meeting.
The process has been ongoing since early this year when Mayor Donna Schmitt moved to the mayoral seat and left a vacancy on the council. Novitsky will fill the open seat for the remainder of her four-year term to be filled on Election Day in 2018.
According to the city charter, a vacancy on the council must be filled by appointment process. The process has proven to be cumbersome, as many residents and members of the council have expressed their frustration. Through months of special meetings and discussion, Council members Bobby Williams and John Murzyn Jr. seemed to be on the opposing side of Council member Connie Buesgens and Schmitt. Each candidate’s name put forth resulted in a 2-2 vote on each side.
Novitsky had been of high consideration for the open seat from the beginning of the process. A well-known name in Columbia Heights, dozens of community members expressed their support for Novitsky during council and special meetings. Novitsky had also placed third last Election Day, following incumbent Williams by only 127 votes. Previously, when Novitsky’s name was put forth, Williams and Murzyn voted for him, and Buesgens and Schmitt voted against.
At the April 10 meeting, Schmitt shared her reasoning of why she did not choose to support Novitsky. At a recent council work session, Novitsky had raised his voice and blamed a council member for stalling the nomination process, Schmitt said. The verbal accusation had then continued into the hallway and outside.
“It was because I felt these were verbal attacks and they were not appropriate, that I withdrew my support for Nick,” Schmitt said.
Schmitt then nominated Ted Landwehr, a former Columbia Heights School Board member who has received support from council members in the past. After Landwehr once again received a 2-2 split vote, Schmitt nominated Nick Novitsky.
“One thing that has helped in this situation is that Nick has always been apologetic, and I do appreciate that,” Schmitt said. According to Schmitt, Novitsky had emailed each council member to apologize, an action that she has not seen in the past from previous council members.
Novitsky received a 3-1 vote, with Buesgens voting against.
Williams thanked the council for coming to a decision.
“It’s really important that we have a functional council,” Williams said. “For the city, and for everyone here, I think it’s important that we did what we did here tonight.”
Murzyn credited the council for having the ability to put things aside when dealing with city issues during this process.
“When we [would discuss] city business, there was no 2-2 voting that I can remember,” Murzyn said. “We kept our minds on what was best for the city.”
Novitsky said he didn’t know what to expect, but he was always hoping that he would be appointed.
“I’m glad to move forward and get the city moving forward,” Novitsky said. In regard to expressing his frustration with the process, Novitsky said, “I questioned [the process] when I shouldn’t have, I apologized when I should have, and it won’t happen again.”
Novitsky said, “It was definitely an interesting journey getting here, and I will do my best to do what’s best for the city.”
Novitsky will be officially sworn into the council at the April 24 meeting.
Contact Sarah Burghardt at [email protected]