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Poway city councilmembers appointed a new — er, old councilmember on May 26 to fill the vacant seat left after the passing of former mayor Mickey Cafagna last month.

After two special city council meetings, four hours of interviews, and two hours of back-and-forth squabbling, Poway’s three councilmembers and newly appointed mayor Don Higginson decided on Carl Kruse, the former councilmember and mayor from 1986 to 1988, to fill the vacant seat.

The process of appointing a new councilmember to finish out Higginson’s 18-month council term was not easy.

At the May 26 special meeting, the four remaining candidates- Kruse, Sabrina Butler, Alexandra Page, and John Fitch- stood before the council and answered many of the same questions they were asked at the previous week’s meeting.

A sample of the questions: Do they agree with the council’s direction for conserving water? How would they respond if the community opposed a policy they supported? And, which service they would cut first — public safety, parks and libraries, or public works?

After all four remaining candidates answered, the stalemate continued.

The quandary the council faced: Should the appointee be experienced or someone able to provide a new outlook and fresh direction for the Poway?

Mayor Higginson and longtime councilmember Betty Rexford appeared unwavering in their support of former assistant city manager and snakeskin-boot-wearing real estate consultant John Fitch for his behind-the-scenes knowledge of city operation.

Whereas, first-term councilmember Jim Cunningham continued his quest for some “new blood” on the council, someone to symbolize a new era in city politics, which he says Poway has lacked in recent years. For those reasons he supported Alexandra Page, a medical doctor with no political experience.

Councilmember Merrilee Boyack was the only councilmember that initially supported Kruse. She believes his previous experience on the council and financial expertise as a retired banker will help the city with the current budget issues. Boyack was equally fervent in her opposition to Fitch for reasons that he might have conflicts of interest with the real estate clients he serves.

After three unsupported motions, Mayor Higginson finally stepped in, saying he understood where his colleague Cunningham was coming from when he asked for some “new blood” on the council. And after hearing that Kruse does not intend to run for the seat in 2010, Higginson had a “V-8 moment.”

Higginson said he would support an appointment of Kruse, but urged the other candidates (Sabrina Butler and Alexandra Page) to start gearing up for the 2010 election.

To that motion, councilmember Cunningham responded, “Don [Higginson], you’ve certainly become mayor tonight.”

Kruse will be sworn in as Poway’s newest, old councilmember at the next city council meeting.

For more on Poway’s new/old councilmember, go to ci.poway.ca.us.

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