Ald. Mark Clear thought it would be a simple matter to decide among eight applicants for a Common Council seat vacated by Sue Ellingson, who resigned in March.
"I expected Ken Golden to be a slam-dunk candidate and that would be the end of the story," Clear told the Common Council Organizational Committee Tuesday night. "But I was extraordinarily impressed with all of the candidates."
Golden -- who served on the council for 18 years -- might have been the early favorite, but he came with plenty of baggage. Several residents in the near-west district asked the council not to select Golden, in part because he lobbied for a controversial development project at Monroe and Knickerbocker Streets last year.
"Because of the amount of controversy out there, we should shy away from creating more conflict in the district," said Ald. Shiva Bidar-Sielaff.
Council members were attracted to Golden because of his experience and because he promised not to run for reelection in April 2015. Twelve people applied to finish out Ellingson's term, but the committee interviewed only eight Tuesday. Three withdrew and a fourth was disqualified because he did not live in the district.
Many neighbors lobbied for Zach Madden, a runner-up in last year's election. But because Madden said he intends to run for the seat next year, the committee did not want to give him the edge of incumbency. "I still believe this is a caretaker, interim position," said Ald. Paul Skidmore.
So the committee picked Lucas Dailey, a designer who has served on several city committees and has promised not to run for the post next year. However, the council, which will vote on his appointment April 29, has no power to ensure he doesn't run.
Like all the other candidates, Dailey identified development pressure as the key issue facing the district. Located on the edge of downtown and UW-Madison, the district's traditional neighborhoods are seeing high-density development.
"I'm not a pro-development guy," he told the committee. But, he added, "I think we need more development, if for nothing else than to stop sprawl. We can't stop development -- it's just a matter of how it's going to happen."