Thursday, February 16, 2012

Much overlap among council applicants, candidates; should candidates be eligible for appointment?

By Lauren Conrad
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

Five of the 10 Midway residents who have applied to fill a vacancy on the city council are candidates for council seats in the November election. And five of the eight non-incumbent candidates for the council have applied for the council seat made available by Becky Moore’s resignation.

Applicants who are also running are Michael Ashton, Kevin Locke, Bruce Southworth, Grayson Vandergrift and Libby Warfield. Applicants who are not running are Phillip Burchell, Dan Elkin, Joseph Haydon, Curt Savage and former council member Charlann Wombles.

Savage said in his application that appointing a candidate would give an unfair advantage in the election. Vandergrift said likewise on Jan. 31, the deadline to file for the election, but apparently changed his mind, because when yesterday’s deadline to apply for the vacancy passed, he was among the applicants.

The council may make the appointment tomorrow morning. Council Members Doris Leigh and Dan Roller disagreed on whether or not being appointed would give a candidate an advantage in the November election.

“I definitely think that filling out the end of this term will give them a leg up,” said Roller. “Last year was my first and it takes a while to get going. Anyone on council now will be on the budget process, which will be an advantage to them, and they will generally find out if they want to do it or if they’re not interested at all.”

“I don’t think it gives them any advantage in November,” Leigh said. “Not in a small town. You just think about the people that have the knowledge.” Council Member Joy Arnold, who is not seeking re-election, wasn’t reached for comment.

The more senior council members said they had mixed feelings about the question, but were open to the idea of appointing a candidate. “Sometimes there is not a choice,” Mayor Pro Tem Sharon Turner said before the application deadline. “For example, what if all the letters [seeking Moore’s seat] are from people who have filed to run in November? What choice would I have then, so I don't back myself into those corners that there is no option in.”

Council Member Aaron Hamilton said the person who completes Moore’s term should just have the best for Midway in mind, whether that person is running in November or not. “I really don’t have a problem with it,” said Hamilton. “It seems as though if some one were to fill it just to fill out Becky’s term that would be okay. On the other hand, some one running in November and filling this position now would allow them some time to feel out the job and see what’s going on. Hopefully it wouldn’t be like were trying to endorse anybody.”

Locke and Warfield said being appointed would improve their chances for election. “I do believe that there is an advantage to seeking the appointment now,” said Locke. “The first and foremost being that it would give the new council member an in-depth look at the issues that council is facing. That familiarity would be very beneficial to a candidate in November as he or she would be able to speak to the issues more intelligently.”

Warfield said, “The apparent advantage to me of being appointed for these 10 months would be that I could make a true determination as to how much time and energy is actually required to serve as a councilman in a sufficient manner. In addition, I think it is an advantage to be allowed to experience the interaction that must take place in any group involved with governing.”

Ashton sees both a benefit and a detriment to his seeking the appointment and running in November. “I think there could be an unfair advantage if I got appointed and ran as an incumbent,” said Ashton, “but then if I was appointed and did a miserable job it would hurt my running. I did put my name in, but that’s not as important as that I am running for the seat in November. If some one else was appointed before me then that is fine.”

Steven Craig, a candidate in the November election who did not apply, said he sees no problem with those who are running in the November election being eligible to fill the vacancy.

“I think they should be able to apply for it,” said Craig, the brother of Magistrate Larry Craig, who defeated Savage in the last election. “I’m sure some candidates think it is going to give them a leg up in the election. If you’re a new time candidate and you’re jumping into a situation midstream, I don’t think that’s a good idea. I would rather start out in a new election.”

Roller expressed his excitement to get a new council member in to complete Moore’s term. “They may be someone with special skills who wants to fill out the term but not run next year; something they think they have to offer or something they think we have been lacking and want to contribute,” he said. “It is the obligation and responsibility of the council members and not the mayor and we have been given a deadline to gather information and go over it.”

The council meeting is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Friday in the upstairs community room at City Hall. The meeting is open to the public, but the meeting notice indicates that the council may discuss the applicants in closed session, which state law allows. A vote to appoint someone must be made in open session.

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