The 12 candidates who have applied to fill a vacancy on the Lakewood City Council are an impressive lot. Most have had either previous elective office experience or have served in some other civic capacity, such as on a citizens advisory committee.
It will be a tough choice for the council, which plans to make the appointment Feb. 4. That person will have the very tall order of replacing Doug Richardson, the longest-serving council member and one of the most respected leaders in Lakewood, Pierce County’s second-largest city.
Richardson – who was mayor in 2004-2005 and again from 2008 to the present – is the last of the original council members who led Lakewood since shortly before it was incorporated in February 1996. During those 17 years, the city formed its own police department, began improvements to the blighted Tillicum area and provided good levels of service while keeping tax rates relatively low.
Fortunately, Richardson isn’t just riding off into the sunset. Starting today, he’ll be representing the interests of Lakewood – as well as Steilacoom and DuPont – on the Pierce County Council. There is no doubt that the retired Army Reserve brigadier general will be a leader on the council and will strongly advocate on behalf of the South Sound’s military-heavy communities.
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The fact that so many appealing candidates are eager for the appointment to Richardson’s seat is a testament to the good place the city is in today. That’s due in large part to the efforts of another leader who will leave soon.
Andrew Neiditz became Lakewood’s second city manager in 2005. He was the search committee’s unanimous choice to head Pierce County's new South Sound 911 agency; if his contract negotiations go well, he could leave Lakewood as early as late February.
Neiditz’s stewardship has seen Lakewood get through the recession in better shape and with less damaging cutbacks than most other cities in the region. He also did a good job of mending fences between the city and the county, which he once served as deputy county executive.
Lakewood now faces the task of finding a new council member and only its third city manager. People in the mold of Richardson and Neiditz are exactly what the community needs.