city hall eau claire

Eau Claire City Hall

Recently elected Eau Claire City Council members were sworn in Tuesday afternoon and chose a new vice president.

Terry Weld led his first meeting as council president and five at-large members — a mix of newcomers and experienced council members — also elected on April 2 officially began their terms as well.

“This is a proud moment for you, an exciting moment,” Weld said prior to Eau Claire County Judge Emily Long swearing in each member individually.

The council then voted on which among them would serve as vice president.

In an 8-3 vote, the council chose Catherine Emmanuelle over David Klinkhammer to take the role of second-in-command.

The vice president position had added importance last year after former President Kerry Kincaid resigned in June during the middle of her term. Councilman Andrew Werthmann then went from serving as vice president to acting president and had led the council for the past 10 months.

Also during Tuesday’s meeting, the council jockeyed for spots on 16 different committees, commissions and boards where one or two seats are reserved for the city’s elected officials.

Of those, the most competitive was for two spots on the city’s Plan Commission, which has the authority to approve certain permits for building projects and make recommendations to the City Council on rezonings and major developments.

Council members Jeremy Gragert, Klinkhammer, Jill Christopherson and John Lor all made their cases when asking colleagues to vote for them to serve on the powerful commission.

“It’s really where my passion is. I can handle the long meetings,” said Gragert, who has served on the commission for the past year.

He noted the panel is also in the middle of work on a few long-term planning documents, which he hoped to still be involved with.

Klinkhammer cited his experience serving on the commission during his previous tenure on the City Council and familiarity with how it works.

“There’s going to be a lot of activity coming forward,” he said, “and I think the city and Plan Commission are going to benefit from my experience.”

Christopherson noted that the district she represents led the city in new development last year. The west side did see the most permits issued for large construction projects and added more housing units than other parts of the city in 2018, according to a recent city report.

An advocate for affordable housing, Christopherson said that zoning policies taken up by the commission play a critical role in how neighborhoods are built.

“The Plan Commission is a place where so much of our city is created,” she said.

Lor, a newcomer to the council, acknowledged he doesn’t have political experience, but his background as a businessman, landlord and real estate agent would be valuable to the commission.

The council voted in favor of keeping Gragert on the commission and appointing Christopherson, who will take a seat previously held by Weld.

Lor was able to secure spots on the Eau Claire Housing Authority and a committee that decides tourism and cultural grants awarded by Visit Eau Claire. Fellow council newcomer Laura Benjamin will serve on the city’s Revolving Loan Fund Committee and the board of directors for Visit Eau Claire.

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