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Second council seat opens outside election season

River Falls begins anew the process of filling an open seat on the City Council -- for the second time since the early April elections.

David Cronk, formerly an at-large alderperson, ran successfully this spring for the District 1 seat that Tom Caflisch previously held for multiple terms. The city decided to advertise the position, take applications for two weeks then make an appointment to fill the seat until April 2014.

As confirmed by its website and City Council documents, River Falls plans to use this same procedure to fill the District 3 seat vacated when newly elected Council Member Katie Chaffee resigned from the position last week.

"It was a hard choice that led to my decision to the leave the council," Chaffee said Friday, "and it was with a heavy heart that I turned in my resignation."

She feels as though she's let down her constituents and supporters, but says the reason she's leaving is "happy and hopeful" as well as necessary.

Chaffee wants to apply for her old job as part-time event coordinator at the River Falls Public Library, which she legally could not do while sitting on the council.

She said, "For good reason, one is not allowed to be on the City Council and a city employee at the same time, so I had to choose."

She served as the River Falls Public Library's first event coordinator for six years, coordinating art shows, historic exhibits and other displays.

When she learned that current coordinator Jera Terrung is leaving the position after three years, Chaffee kept thinking about the job.

Chaffee said she enjoyed the challenges of developing shows of broad interest in the library's lower level. She's missed the people and creativity involved with the work more than she anticipated, and her personal circumstances have changed.

She says candidly that fewer hours at two part-time jobs plus a change of marital status also affect her decision and the landscape of her retirement. In addition to wanting and liking the library-coordinator job, she needs more hours on a steadier basis.

Her years in River Falls include a long-time library affinity, having sat on the Library Board and its building committee.

A former mayor and council member, Chaffee makes it clear she is not guaranteed the position, but felt it was worth resigning the council to take a chance and apply.

In addition to her job as library-event coordinator, Chaffee has also worked as mayor of River Falls and a Journal reporter, as well as volunteering for the Whole Earth grocery cooperative, the local farmer's market, the Powerful Choices committee and community garden efforts.

At-large finalists

The City Council announced at its May 28 meeting that 11 people applied to fill the open at-large alderperson seat and that by vote - the three sitting council members selected three finalists who would be be invited to the June 11 meeting: Rellen Hardtke, Gorden Hedahl and Daniel Gulick.

They discussed using the same process to fill the District 3 seat as has been used to fill the at-large position. The members also established that an appointment would fill the seat only until April 2014, at which time an election would be held to fill the seat.

Also of interest is that the interim candidate for District 3 may live anywhere in the city, while anyone who'd run for the seat in April would have to live in District 3.

Look for the council-seat application at the city's web