SIOUX CITY | A seat at the front of the City Council Chambers that's been open for nearly two months will be filled Monday by the council's new youngest member.
The City Council has selected 30-year-old Alex Watters, a first-year adviser at Morningside College, to fill the vacant seat, according to a news release issued Wednesday morning.
Watters will take his oath of office at the beginning of Monday's council meeting and will finish the remaining 10 months of the term left by Keith Radig, who resigned Jan. 3 to take his seat on the Woodbury County Board of Supervisors.
Watters' appointment brings an end to the city's appointment process, which needed to be complete within 60 days of Radig's resignation under state law. But the process could be extended if residents decide to petition for a special election within 14 days of Watters' appointment.
Doug Waples, one of among 13 other residents who applied for the seat, had previously said he planned to petition for a special election. But Waples, who had expressed concerns how a city bridge project has impacted his home, told the Journal Thursday he is pleased with the council's choice and, at this point, is not planning on turning in the voter signatures he collected.
"I think Alex is new blood, and I feel that's what's needed," Waples said. "I honestly think he was what I was looking for on the council."
The four council members picked Watters over a list of candidates that included four former Sioux City councilmen. All were interviewed by the council over the past month.
Following those public interviews, each council member and the mayor submitted his or her top three choices for the position via email, according to Mayor Bob Scott.
Scott said Watters received the most top nominations. He added that he believed the council was looking for a youthful member.
"For me, maybe it's time we do have a younger voice on the council," Scott said. "He certainly articulated his expectations well when he interviewed."
Watters, who has not held public office before, said he plans to bring a youthful point of view to the council, especially as it relates to quality of life and amenities. He said goals would include increasing tourism in Sioux City and attracting more young families.
"I really just want to be that voice," Watters said. "So that when we're going through those issues, we're thinking of that perspective."
Watters said his phone and social media feeds began "blowing up" Wednesday once the city's news release went public announcing his appointment.
"It's exciting," he said. "I'm really grateful for this opportunity. I think there were a lot of great candidates."
Watters, an Iowa Great Lakes native, enrolled in Morningside College in 2004 to play golf for the Mustangs. Just a few weeks into his freshman year, he damaged his spine in a diving accident at Okoboji that left him confined to a wheelchair. He returned to Morningside to complete his undergraduate degree, and later received a master's degree in negotiation and dispute resolution from Creighton University.
Since moving back to Sioux City, Watters has joined several local committees including the city's Events Facilities Advisory Board. He worked as a paid field organizer for the Sioux City office of Organizing for America, a political group that supported President Obama’s re-election in 2012.
In 2014, Watters won the Democratic nomination for a seat on the Woodbury County Board of Supervisors, but lost to current board chairman Matthew Ung in the general election.
Watters said he plans to run for a four-year term this fall on the Sioux City Council, which is officially nonpartisan. Three of the five council seats will be on the November ballot.
A special election for the seat Radig vacated would be necessary only if someone submits a petition with at least 126 signatures within 14 days of the appointment. The auditor's office would then set a date for a special election at least two months in the future.
Costs would be $15,000 for an election and would double in the event that three or more people ran, making a primary election necessary. Watters would continue serve on the council during the interim.