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26 vie for empty Ward 4 seat

Maybe they should just draw a name out of a hat.

A whopping 26 people applied for a vacant North Las Vegas City Council seat, leaving the four sitting City Council members with an awful lot of sifting to do.

The applicants range in age, education and experience.

Among them is a dentist, an attorney, an interior designer, a homemaker, a construction superintendent and a retired letter carrier. They list a dizzying array of hobbies and interests on their applications, from "cross-stitch" and "environmentally friendly landscaping" to "brown belt in Bushido Karate" and "donate blood every 8 weeks."

So how will the City Council whittle down the diverse field of applicants to fill the Ward 4 seat?

"It’s a lot of work, there’s no doubt about it," Councilwoman Anita Wood said.

The four Council members hope to have interviewed each of the 26 candidates before Wednesday, when they are supposed to appoint one of them to fill the seat vacated mid-term by Shari Buck. Buck was elected the city’s new mayor last month.

Speaking to so many candidates individually is a time consuming process, particularly because the four council members can’t all be present at each interview without violating the open meeting law.

So they split into interviewing teams: Wood and Buck on one, Councilmen William Robinson and Robert Eliason on the other.

"It’s going to be a long journey," seven-term Councilman Robinson said. "But if they were interested, they are owed the opportunity to be interviewed."

Council members said they are looking for someone who has a solid background on city issues, a clear vision for the city’s future, and a strong backbone.

"I’d like somebody who can be their own person," Buck said. "Somebody who can stand up to special interest groups and lobbyists."

Whomever they choose will earn an annual salary of $41,827 until the term is up in 2011. The appointee also will have a leg up if he or she decides to run for the seat at that time.

"You can claim some experience, and, obviously, you’ll have the name recognition," said University of Nevada, Reno political science professor Eric Herzik.

Mid-term appointments are the perfect opportunity to get your foot in the political door, he said.

"You avoid the expense and all the fighting of an election."

To qualify for the position, applicants had to be eligible to register to vote, be a U.S. citizen at least 18 years of age, and have no felony convictions. They also must have been residents of Ward 4 for at least 30 days before June 30, which was the last day applications were accepted.

Council members said they won’t make up their minds until the interviews are complete and they’ve each shared their top picks at Wednesday’s council meeting.

But others have said Richard Cherchio, a 62-year-old retired letter carrier originally from Brooklyn, N.Y., may be the frontrunner.

Cherchio, who serves as president of a local alliance of homeowners associations and has been active in the city for years, ran unsuccessfully for the seat in 2007.

He said he hasn’t lobbied council members for the seat, but has "demonstrated a true desire to be of service."

Several of his supporters also have sent letters recommending him to the council.

An appointment would be "an ideal opportunity to have a two-year probationary period," Cherchio said. He added that he plans to run again for the seat in 2011, regardless of whether he’s appointed.

Buck said she has "probably 10 people" at the top of her list of candidates. She declined to say who they were.

"The hard part is there are so many good applicants to choose from," she said.

Contact reporter Lynnette Curtis at lcurtis @reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0285.

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