Accountant and former Planning Commissioner Daniel Johnson was chosen to fill the vacant seat on the Solvang City Council during a special meeting Tuesday night.
Johnson edged out 10 others vying for the spot. He was the top choice for Mayor Ryan Toussaint and councilor Chris Djernaes, who were elected in November.
Each candidate was given time to introduce themselves to councilors and answer prepared questions like what their vision for the city is and how they would handle strong opposition.
Johnson told the City Council that he would consider what residents wanted while also balancing the needs of local businesses.
“You have to make sure you’re representing both,” Johnson said.
He told councilors that he didn’t run in the last election because “for family and business reasons I felt it wasn’t the right time.” But once he saw the election results, he said he felt he could complement the new council.
That was a sentiment expressed by several other applicants for the position, who felt that the voters had spoken for a change and they wanted to be part of it.
Others, however, bemoaned the lack of “institutional knowledge” on the newly formed council. Toussaint is the longest serving member on the council with two years of experience.
Edwin Skytt, who lost in November’s election to councilor Karen Waite, said he wanted to prevent a reinvention of the wheel by bringing his more than a decade of council experience to the table.
Each councilor was given a ballot to list their top five picks Tuesday night, with the top choice getting five points, the second choice getting four, and so on.
Waite’s top choice was former councilor Joan Jamieson, who had the third highest votes in the November election and would have filled the vacant seat if the council chose to use the recent election results to make their choice.
Councilor Robert Clarke’s top choice was Justin Rodriguez, who made it on each councilor’s top five.
During public comment, Solvang resident Carey McKinnon said she was disappointed that the councilors didn’t choose to go with the next highest vote-getter from the last election.
McKinnon said it was the fairest, simplest and most democratic choice and not doing so opened the council up to accusations of political maneuvering by trying to choose the applicant they liked best rather than what the voters chose.
Solvang resident Gabe Rossetti disagreed. He said the last election showed that citizens wanted out with the old, in with the new. He said the councilors shouldn’t consider those that ran in the last election and were defeated.
“I am the majority of people that voted for that sweeping change,” Rossetti said.
Aaron Petersen asked that councilors choose someone in a tourism-related business to be on the council because tourism is Solvang’s economic engine.
During his presentation, Johnson told councilors he wanted to make sure Solvang developed the right way so kids would be able to move back to the community.
As a certified public accountant, Johnson said he didn’t want mistakes to be made that required residents having to pick up the bill.
When asked how he would handle strong opposition to something he intended to support, Johnson replied that he has three small children and trying to get them to shower or go to bed can lead to some hostile discussions.
Johnson’s vision for Solvang is to make sure it's able to sustain itself fiscally, he told councilors.
“If you’re not changing yourself then you’re going to get left behind,” Johnson said.