At-Large Decision

Published 2:34 pm Thursday, July 3, 2014

FARMVILLE — Town council expects to temporarily fill the At-Large vacancy next Wednesday and petition the court for a special election to be held as soon as possible.

The winner of the special election, which the Town hopes will be held in September, would serve the remainder of the unexpired term of David Whitus, which runs through June 30, 2016.

Whitus was elected mayor in May and moved into that role on Tuesday, July 1, creating the vacancy, but town council could not take any action until the vacancy actually occurred.

Email newsletter signup

Council members will not appoint someone who plans to run in the special election because they don’t want to create an electoral advantage. History shows individuals appointed by a governing body generally win the special election.

Town council, of course, cannot require the interim appointee not to run in the election and admits the person they appoint could, theoretically, change their mind and run anyway.

But they don’t expect that U-turn will materialize.

Five residents have written to the Town, or to a Town official, asking to be considered for the appointment, each of them also expected to run in the special election.

A sixth resident has written, volunteering to serve only until the special election can be held.

Members of town council have also been contacted, individually, by other residents saying they would serve until the special election determines who serves until June 30, 2016.

The At-Large seat, as its name implies, is not confined to a single Ward and can be filled by any qualified town resident, regardless of where they live within the corporate limits.

Town council discussed the situation at its July work session on Wednesday, conferring with Town Attorney Donald C. Blessing, and decided to make the appointment during next week’s regular monthly meeting so the public would have more notice.

Council members discussed the possibility of making the appointment during the work session but wanted to wait until next Wednesday’s 7 p.m. meeting, expecting better attendance by town residents.

Wednesday’s work session was Whitus’ first meeting as mayor, though he served 16 years as one of the Town’s two At-Large council members and was no stranger to the proceedings.

“Several of us have talked to a couple of people who have said, ‘I will serve and I will not run,’” Mayor Whitus said, “and they’re very reputable people who I would take at their word.”

Vice-mayor Armstead D. Reid asked how many names had been received from those interested in the At-Large seat and Whitus replied, “that is an interesting question because…I think that council also reached the decision that they did not want to appoint anybody who was going to actually seek the seat (in the election). Am I correct in that?”

Council members affirmed the mayor’s reading of their intentions.

Town council could have decided not to make an appointment, leaving it to the court to do so, but council members agreed that it was their responsibility.

Tommy Pairet made the motion for council to make the appointment but said he wanted the action to occur at next Wednesday’s regular meeting.

When asked by Whitus if waiting until next week would still offer the chance for a September 9 election date—the Town’s goal—Blessing said he believed so, but could not say for certain.

Town council’s petition to the court cannot specify which day the election will be held but the Town can, and will, ask that it be set for the earliest possible date.

The five residents who have contacted the Town or a Town official formally expressing an interest in the At-Large seat are, alphabetically, Dan Dwyer, Carl U. Eggleston, Robert Glenn, Jack Houghton and Rhodes Martin.

The sixth, Thomasine L. Stroble, offers to serve until the special election can be held.