Pataskala City Council on Jan. 21 appointed Melissa Gibson to represent Ward 2 and hired utilities director Nathan Coey as acting city administrator.
Mike Compton, the previous Ward 2 representative, was elected mayor last November.
Gibson, of Sara Court, is a claims adjuster with State Farm Insurance who served as levy chairwoman for Licking Heights' 10-year, 8.92-mill emergency levy approved May 7, 2013.
She told City Council the city's west side needs stronger representation.
In her letter to City Council, Gibson wrote the city needs to manage growth according to a "known and agreed upon plan" and needs to maintain a good image, stating "we need to make sure our leadership is ever mindful of the impact its actions have on the image of the city and that our (City) Council leads the way laying out a clear plan that outlines our community values and priorities."
Four people applied to replace Compton, but one applicant did not live in Ward 2 and another withdrew his name before City Council held interviews Jan. 21, said Kathy Hoskinson, City Council clerk.
City Council also interviewed Tim Triplett of Cottage Grove Circle, a sales consultant for Clear Sky Communications of Columbus.
City Council voted 4-2 to appoint Gibson, with Todd Barstow, Mike Fox, Tim Hickin and Bryan Lenzo voting for her and Dan Hayes and Pat Sagar voting for Triplett.
Gibson was sworn in after the appointment and before City Council considered any legislation.
She will be required to run for election in November to retain the seat for the remainder of the term, which expires Dec. 31, 2015, according to city records.
City Council also decided to take the city staff's recommendation and voted unanimously to appoint Coey as acting city administrator.
"I am more than happy to help you with whatever you need," Coey said. "I'll do whatever is required to give you folks some time to figure out what direction you want to go. I'll keep the seat warm."
Finance director James Nicholson said Coey earns $74,663.94 annually as utility director and the city pays $30,862 in benefits for him. While serving as administrator, he will receive an extra $75 per day or $375 per week, as approved by City Council in December.
City Council in November declined to renew Tim Boland's contract as city administrator. Boland now is city manager of Steubenville.
Service director Benjamin King has been acting administrator since Boland left.
City Council wanted to hire an interim administrator for up to 18 months because it is considering forming a charter review commission to review the duties of the mayor and administrator.
Compton said after reviewing the administrative structure, he and city staff members felt it would be beneficial to put someone who already is familiar with the city in the position for the interim.
"By appointing someone who has been in it instead of bringing an external candidate, which would take six to eight months for them to learn after they arrive and could take up a lot of the staff's time, I think this keeps us moving forward during the interim basis," King said.
Compton said Coey would have help running the utility department and he would work with resident Andy Walther as a consultant on building projects, which have not previously been under his jurisdiction.
"We reached out to Andy Walther and I'll lean on his expertise," Coey said. "I'll use Andy to fill the gap in my lack of knowledge about the city. I understand the utilities but I do not know everything."
Walther said he has served as a project manager for many governments and has also worked with the city on many projects that benefit the parks and youth sports programs.
Walther is available to work 10 hours a week at $125 an hour, according to King.
Lenzo said he appreciated the mayor's "out of the box" thinking. However, he said, he has issues with the process and felt it might be better for the city to hire a full-time administrator until it determines if the position will change.
Lenzo asked city attorney Rufus Hurst for a timeline of how quickly administrative changes could be implemented.
Hurst said if the charter review commission convenes and decides to reduce the administrator's duties and increase the mayor's power, the city would have to submit a charter change to the Licking County Board of Elections the third week of August.
Voters would have to approve the changes in November and a date for the changes to become effective.
If charter changes were approved by the voters, Hurst said, the city might need to consider another election for mayor.
Hurst said he is not sure if the current mayor could remain in office without another election since the duties and salary for the position could change if the charter is changed.
In addition, Lenzo asked if City Council could hire a consultant without requesting proposals from all interested consultants.
Hayes said Coey could hire a consultant in his role as interim administrator.
Lenzo also asked about the project manager's position that was left vacant Sept. 21 when Robert Schroeder resigned.
King said City Council has not changed its organizational structure to remove the project manager's position but it is an "unfunded position" for 2014.
Nicholson confirmed the city did not include a project manager's salary in the 2014 budget.
Lenzo made a motion to reconvene the mayor's ad hoc search committee formed in 2013 to look for a full-time administrator and make recommendations on the position to City Council.
Hayes said the ad hoc committee that worked in December was formed by the previous mayor, Steve Butcher, and it would be inappropriate to convene that group without Compton's approval.
The motion failed 4-3 with Barstow, Fox, Hayes and Hickin voting against it and Gibson, Lenzo and Sagar voting in favor.
City Council also unanimously approved a resolution to give "any acting department directors" a pay increase of $25 per day for additional duties during this time.
In other business Jan. 21, City Council:
* Agreed to keep the regular meeting dates the first and third Mondays of each month.
City Council rejected a motion to change the meeting dates to the first and third Tuesdays in a 5-2 vote, with Todd Barstow, Melissa Gibson, Hayes, Bryan Lenzo and Pat Sagar voting against it and Mike Fox and Tim Hickin voting in favor.
* Unanimously agreed to have the city's safety committee review any technical projects.