With Councilman Mitchell Englander planning to step down at the end of the year, Los Angeles City Council President Herb Wesson said Friday that he is considering having the council name former Councilman Greig Smith to fill the District 12 seat as a voting member until a special election is held, likely in June.
Smith represented the San Fernando Valley district from 2003 to 2011, and Wesson said that Smith has pledged not to run in the special election but only fill the seat until then.
“I believe that Mr. Smith would serve the city if he was officially asked,” Wesson said. “And we did talk about that, and I think he would be willing to do it.”
A number of issues still need to be worked out for the transition to take place, Wesson said. For one, Englander has not turned in a resignation letter, and Wesson said he did not believe Englander can be officially replaced until he steps down. Smith’s appointment would also have to be approved by a majority vote of the council.
Smith could not immediately be reached for comment.
In recent years, the common practice when a City Council seat has become vacant is for the council president to appoint a “caretaker” of the district, which is essentially a non-voting member who oversees the day-to-day operations of the district until the seat is filled through an election.
When Felipe Fuentes announced in September 2016 that he was stepping down, Wesson appointed himself as caretaker of the district until the seat was filled about 10 months later by Councilwoman Monica Rodriguez, who was elected May 2017 and officially took the seat that July.
Wesson said each district is not a “cookie cutter” situation, and that he was considering the option due to Smith being available to fill the role, being highly respected by the current members of the council, and pledging not to run in the special election.
“This is a unique situation based on the skills this individual in particular brings to the table,” Wesson said. “I’m not saying that we are definitely going to do this, I’m not saying that this is going to happen in the future, but I do think that you deal with these issues on a case-by-case basis.”
Wesson also said previous vacancies have been typically filled with a caretaker because the council would be hesitant to create an “unlevel playing field” by appointing a voting member who would then have an advantage in any upcoming election for the seat.
Smith is currently the president of his own consulting firm.
Englander announced last month that he will step down at the end of the year to take a job in the private sector. His term does not expire until 2020.