Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

"Weller still getting acclimated to new role; Newest Pullman City Council member trying to learn as he goes"

Lots of great local political stories in the Moscow-Pullman Daily News today. We'll start with Palousitics contributor, City Councilman Nathan Weller:
Nathan Weller counseled himself to stay quiet during his first Pullman City Council meeting.

Weller, who defeated Al Sorensen in the November election, said his intent was to be silent and observe at the Jan. 8 meeting.

"Of course, the first day it's a little tough to jump right in and swim with the big fish," he said. "It was about letting it sink in. I felt it was necessary to listen more than it was to talk."

Weller doesn't intend to stay quiet for long. He said he has opinions on subjects such as development along the Pullman-Moscow Highway, and the city's proposed business license and rental property registration programs.

"There's plenty of time," he said. "When the issues come up, of course I'm going to put in my feelings."

Former councilman David Stiller - who did not seek re-election in November - said newcomers to the council should not be reluctant to speak up about important issues and create "more fire in the belly of (council) members."

"That's what the council is for, to question and probe," Stiller said. "If I had to do it over again ... I think I would have been respectful, but more aggressive."

The council also expects another newcomer, as the Ward 3 position temporarily held by Devon Felsted will be filled during the first few weeks of February.

Weller said he's not afraid of having a differing opinion than other members of the council.

"When you're a part of a group - a partnership - there's going to be disagreements. It's just the name of the game," he said. "However, disagreements never need to be disagreeable. We can discuss things, even if we don't see eye to eye. We can still come in the next day and say, 'I don't agree with you, but at least we had an agreeable conversation about it.' "

Still, Weller doesn't want to get ahead of himself. For now, he said he'll focus on acclimating to his new role. He attended an Association of Washington Cities-sponsored conference in Spokane on Saturday that served to create leadership, provide an avenue to network and increase communication skills for recently elected council members throughout the area.

"It was valuable, valuable information," he said. "When you run for election, you're running as an individual. On the City Council, you're running as a team."

Councilman Barney Waldrop said new council members shouldn't take on too much too fast.

"The first few weeks on the council are entirely a learning experience," he said. "They shouldn't be afraid to draw on the skill and wide experience of city staff and other council members. A lot of the people there have already walked the trails before."

Weller admits there will be a period of adjustment. He'll eventually learn the ins and outs of state and local codes, and the cameras that televise City Council meetings will take some getting used.

"You're under a lot of scrutiny," he said of his position on the council. "You're very aware that people are listening to you. That's different. I've never been in that position."

Weller, a 2005 Washington State University graduate, said he's already referenced his time management skills and study habits formed in college to conquer the packet of background information provided to council members before their Tuesday meetings.

"But it's more than homework. With this, it's about the livelihood of the people in Pullman," he said. "I feel passionately about this. Some people may think that's weird, but I care very much about the city."

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