The vacancy on Pendleton's City Council, recently created by Cheryl Marier, presents an opportunity for public input and a tremendous responsibility for the existing council members.

I have appreciated Cheryl Marier's methodical and analytical approach to decision-making, as well as her ability to think and act independently. I will miss her objective representation of Pendleton's citizens on the council and wish her well in her new endeavor. I am sure that resigning from her seat on city council was not any easy decision for her to make. Now, the existing city council members have a vacancy to fill and the citizens of Pendleton have an opportunity to seize.

From recent articles in the East Oregonian, I understand that there are four applicants who have come forward for consideration of this vacant city council seat. I thank each of them for their willingness to serve the community and respect their sense of public responsibility and volunteerism. Unless a vacancy is created midterm, city council candidates are voted in by the public through a formal election process. When a vacancy such as the current one occurs; the existing council members vote on applicants to fill the seat. In this case, there must be five votes out of the seven council members in support of a candidate to fill the seat. This is a tremendous responsibility that will have a significant impact on major decision-making that affects Pendleton for years to come. The decision for whom to vote to fill the vacant seat is no different than any other decision the council is charged with making. It is a responsibility of our city council members to make informed decisions, including consideration of the public's input. It is also a responsibility of the public to be informed and to share their input with the city council members.

Some have asked why I care so much about who is on the city council. After all, some say, "who cares about politics?" This question is easy for me to answer. I care because members of city council serve as representatives for citizens of the community. I care because members of city council have input and make decisions on matters that affect the quality of life for me and my family. I care because members of city council have input and influence decisions made about Pendleton's future. I care because the composite of city council is literally the "face" of our community. All of these reasons make it my responsibility to care.

I have contacted my city council person, Dan Ceniga, to let him know who I support for the vacant seat and I have shared with him the reasons why I support the candidate. I also plan to attend the city council meeting on Tuesday at 5 p.m. to observe the interviews that are scheduled. I encourage Pendleton citizens to join me at that meeting and to let their council person know who they would like them to consider voting for to fill the vacancy. Public input on matters such as this is vital for Pendleton's future. If we are to hold our elected officials accountable for major decision-making that impacts our future, then we have a responsibility to also be informed and to share our input with them.

The process of filling a vacant seat on the city council appears to be one with a tight timeline. A timeline that may not allow much time for existing city council members to solicit public input they way they would like. I hope that the East Oregonian continues to follow the process closely, sharing as much information as possible with the public. I also hope that city council members will take the time necessary to make an informed decision on how to vote. This will require city council members to ask tough interview questions (in a meeting open to the public) to make sure they have thoroughly reviewed each candidate's qualifications and interests for serving on the city council. I further hope that city officials will do their best to share the process with the public, to encourage and to consider citizen input, and that they too, will take as much time as necessary to facilitate informed decision-making by the council members.

Please join me in contacting the city council member who represents your ward and share your thoughts on the candidates who have applied for the vacant seat on the Pendleton City Council.

Please join me at the meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 17, at 5 p.m. to observe the interview process. This is an opportunity to help shape Pendleton's future!

Susan Bower and her husband moved to Pendleton in 2005 to open a small business. Bower has served in senior management positions in the financial services industry for over a decade and has been a management consultant to small businesses since 1992. She currently teaches business classes at Blue Mountain Community College and serves on the Children's Museum of Eastern Oregon board of directors.

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