It might have been a long holiday weekend, but City councilors —all except one — were in place Monday night to interview and select a new council member for Ward 1 and consider the ramifications of two of the largest-ever residential and commercial developments inside the city limits.
L. Thomas Lehman — known to many as “Tom” of Tom’s Pharmacy, board of education member and a Little League and Legion baseball supporter — assumed the unexpired term created by the resignation of Jim Palmer.
Councilor Mick Webber was not in attendance.
During the delayed 5 p.m. meeting, councilors interviewed Lehman along with another applicant, David Erwin. Last week five candidates made application, meeting the previously announced deadline of July 22. However, after interviewing the candidates — two of whom were disqualified due to residency issues — the Council voted 6-2 to extend the application process.
Operating under a new legal opinion from City Attorney Randy Elliott, candidate interviews were posted as a “public meeting” agenda item instead of the previous executive session routine.
Adapting to the more open form of government at City Hall is still a new routine for both Claremore residents and the Council.
Prior to adjourning to the adjoining meeting room, Deputy Mayor Flo Guthrie and Mayor Brant Shallenburger addressed applicants and the public seated in the Council Chambers and explained that each candidate would be called to the next room for an interview, one at a time. It was noted the interviews were still open to the public. However, only one candidate at a time joined the Council, along with one member of the press.
Councilor Terry Chase said the Council chose to adjourn to the meeting room “out of respect” and “fairness” to the candidates.
Guthrie, who has served previously on the Council, said, in the past, interviews took place in the Council Chamber.
In other action, the Council approved the 300-plus-acre Briscoe Ranch Planned United Development (PUD) in north Claremore and approved commercial zoning for the over 160 acre Piguet property in south Claremore.