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The Lincoln City Council will vote Monday to appoint Sändra Washington to fill the at-large City Council seat vacated when former council member Leirion Gaylor Baird was sworn in as mayor.

Twenty-four people had applied to fill the seat, which opened May 20.

Washington, a member of the Lincoln-Lancaster County Planning Commission, would fill the remainder of the term through May 2021. 

Washington became the consensus candidate among the council, in large part because of her knowledge of the nuts and bolts of city government she's gained through her time on the planning commission and her experience in federal government, council members said. 

Originally from Columbus, Ohio, Washington has lived in Lincoln since 1990.

She worked with the National Park Service for 25 years, retiring in 2014 as the Association Regional Director for Cultural Resources, Planning, Construction, Communications, Legislation and Congressional Affairs.

Washington serves on the Prairie Corridor on the Haines Branch cabinet and was a Lincoln Parks and Recreation Advisory Board member for five years.    

"When I moved to Lincoln in 1990, I knew I had moved to my new hometown," Washington said in her letter seeking consideration for the council seat. "I was impressed with the number and quality of parks, downtown and what I saw as a nonpartisan approach to problem-solving."

To Washington, Lincoln has retained those qualities while the city's energy builds. 

Then-mayor Chris Beutler appointed Washington to the planning commission in 2016, and City Council Chair Jane Raybould and Councilman Roy Christensen cited that experience as evidence she can hit the ground running. 

"We have found a wonderful candidate who brings tremendous experience," said Raybould, who described Washington as a "brilliant woman." 

Raybould said selecting a Democrat and a woman were important factors in Washington's appointment. 

Voters in 2017 cast the most ballots for Gaylor Baird of all the at-large candidates that year, so Raybould, a Democrat, said she wanted to replace the mayor with someone like her. 

Washington would be the third woman on the seven-member council. Raybould was just reelected, and Tammy Ward is serving her first term.

With the "face of the city changing," the council and city government should reflect that diversity, Raybould said.

Christensen, a Republican, called Washington a quality person and the "consensus candidate," noting that many of the candidates were interviewed by council members in person. 

"Sändra rose to the top," Raybould said. 

Washington told Raybould she would seek election to the seat when the term ends in 2021.  

Washington's appointment will be voted on at the beginning of Monday's City Council meeting, and following her expected approval, she will be sworn in at the end of the meeting, Raybould said.

The mayor would need to appoint a replacement for her on the Planning Commission, and that appointment requires approval by the City Council and Lancaster County Board.

Council members met in small groups, fewer than a quorum of four, to deliberate about the qualified finalists several times during the last two weeks before they arrived at their choice, Raybould said.

“It was thrilling to see so many talented, qualified candidates apply for this position and their willingness to serve their community and the city we love,” Raybould said in an email.

“We want to encourage those who had applied to consider serving on one of the many advisory boards and commissions in our community.”

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Reach the writer at 402-473-2657 or rjohnson@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSRileyJohnson.

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Reporter

Riley Johnson reports on local government in Lincoln.

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