Lancaster City Hall building

Lancaster City Hall building along Duke Street, seen here on Nov. 14, 2020.

Anyone who has lived in the city of Lancaster for at least one year and is at least 18 years old is eligible to apply for a newly open seat on the seven-member city council.

The council’s members are accepting applications through 5 p.m. on Jan. 24. They will appoint a new member by Feb. 11 to fill the seat vacated by Xavier Garcia-Molina, who had completed just two years of his four-year term.

Applicants may not be a city employee or hold elected office in federal, state or county government, according to a city release. They also must agree to participate in a council orientation with the city clerk, said council President Ismail “Izzy” Smith-Wade-El.

“It’s a steep learning curve,” Smith-Wade-El said. “It’s really helpful to be brought up to speed before you try to jump into it.”

Although Garcia-Molina was elected as a Democrat, applicants registered as independents or to other parties will be considered, Smith-Wade-El added.

After the application period closes, the applicants’ names will be posted to the city’s website. The council will convene a special meeting on Jan. 27 at 6 p.m. to publicly interview the candidates, Smith-Wade-El said. Public comment will be accepted at the Feb. 8 meeting where a candidate will be nominated to fill the vacancy.

Speaking only for himself, Smith-Wade-El said he hopes the council will choose a candidate willing to “go above and beyond outside the prescribed role of council,” someone who brings “something the council does not currently have.”

“There are a fair number of intangible things that you have to do as a councilor that are not  specific to the job description, things that you will be called upon by your community to do,” Smith-Wade-El said. “So I hope for someone who is aware of those things and has space for this.”

Majority support from the council’s six current members is required for the appointment. Members of the city council are paid $8,000 per year for their part-time work.

Any qualified city resident interested in applying should email a resume and letter of interest to Bernard Harris, the Lancaster city clerk, at bharris@cityoflancasterpa.com; or by regular mail to Harris c/o Lancaster City Hall, 120 N. Duke Street, P.O. Box 1599, Lancaster, PA 17608. 

The vacancy

Garcia-Molina resigned from city council on Tuesday, citing his mental health and graduate school responsibilities as why he decided he could no longer fulfill the duties of the job. 

“I started my term right at the start of the pandemic, and I really wanted to be a councilmember with the goal of representing Lancastrian values of authenticity, fairness and compassion,” Garcia-Molina said. “As someone with bipolar (disorder), it has really made me realize that it’s time to heal, and I can only show up as my best self if I prioritize my own mental health.”

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