City Council considering switching from 3-member committees to 7-member study sessions

Posted on December 31st, 2021 By:

New Gig Harbor Mayor Tracie Markley, after consulting with city staff, is recommending that the City Council suspend all committee meetings for six months and that issues usually taken up by them go before the full board.

The change to “committee of the whole” was made when Markley and others were new Council members during the first half of 2020 and proved beneficial, she said. The new group will include three new members — Roger Henderson, Brenda Lykins and Seth Storseth — who were elected in November. A fourth will be appointed in January to replace Markley.

In lieu of committee meetings, all committee matters would be presented to the full council at study sessions on Thursdays at 3 p.m. after each Monday City Council meeting. They study sessions would ensure that each council member has equal access to all information provided by staff. Staff members support the recommendation because it allows them to address the concerns of all council members equally in one session and they can receive clear direction from the majority, according to the city.

teracie Markley

Tracie Markley

Each of the seven council members now sits on two three-person committees — planning and building; public works; intergovernmental affairs; finance and safety; and board and commission candidate review. The mayor is an ex officio member of all of them, and usually sits in.

“It’s easier sometimes whey you have new council members to do council of the whole so all of the council people are hearing the same information at the same time and making staff directives as a cohesive whole council,” said Markley.

With committees, a new council member with little experience could be voted to be a chairperson.

“When you have four brand new council people who have never chaired a meeting before and don’t know how the processes go, it can be overwhelming to get on these committees and dive right in,” Markley said. “We found it very helpful to have council of the whole for six months, to make decisions all at the same time with all seven present. It was really, really helpful to get our feet under us with all the new council people.”

Members often wind up watching the committee meetings on video anyway to get more information than the brief overview provided at a council meeting.

“You want to know what you’re voting on and why,” Markley said. “You’re doing double work. It’s easier especially when you’re brand new as a council person to have all of it happening at the same time and be able to share everybody’s thoughts and input instead of just three out of the seven.”

At the end of June, council members will be asked if they would like to return to the committee structure or continue to meet in study sessions.

The change will be addressed during a special council meeting at 3 p.m. on Jan. 3. The meeting will be held remotely. It can be accessed by dialing (253) 215-8782 and entering the Meeting ID 932 1605 6382 or through Zoom at: