The Marshall City Commission has decided not to wait until the May 2020 election to fill the District 2 seat, which became vacant due to the illness and Jan. 8 death of Commissioner Gail Beil.
After a 4-1 vote Jan. 9, the Marshall City Commission moved to accept applications to fill the unexpired term of District 2 Commissioner Gail Beil.
Applications will be available from the city of Marshall City Clerk’s Office on the second floor at 401 S. Alamo St. The deadline to apply is 5 p.m., Jan. 24. Applicants must be age 21 and up and a resident of District 2 for 12 months, according to the City of Marshall charter.
The vote to accept applications came after District 5 Commissioner Vernia Calhoun moved to appoint Leo Morris in the position, until the May election, failed. It failed in a 2-3 vote with Mayor Terri Brown, Commissioners Doug Lewis and Amy Ware voting against it. District 6 Commissioner Larry Hurta was absent.
“I put this on the agenda because District 2 has been vacant for over eight months,” said Calhoun.
Giving thanks to the late Beil’s service, Calhoun said she has a concern for District 2 because she not only represents District 5, but she also represents District 2, depending on if it’s an odd or even year.
“So I do have a concern for District 2,” said Calhoun. “The commission has voted to put it on the ballot to replace commissioner Beil and I’m asking the commission to consider voting for someone here, tonight, to sit in the seat until the election in May.”
Calhoun said she recommended Morris because he was the only other candidate, besides Beil, that campaigned for the seat during the last election last May.
“We only had two candidates, which were Mr. Leo Morris and Ms. Beil; and Ms. Beil won by 15 votes,” said Calhoun. “I’d like to make a motion to select Mr. Leo Morris to sit there until May election and for the commission to consider to approve.”
District 1 Commissioner Marvin Bonner seconded her motion, which failed after a lengthy discussion, prompted by Commissioner Lewis.
Lewis inquired about the proper procedure that’s usually taken in such circumstances.
“Usually do people show interest in this seat and do we look at names? How does this usually work?” Lewis asked.
Mayor Brown said she doesn’t think such instances have ever happened on the commission, and asked City Attorney Scott Rectenwald for some advisement.
Rectenwald said the last time they discussed the issue, the idea was to put the item on the agenda for discussion.
“I really thought what we had decided back then was people would propose people to sit in the seat and be prepared to discuss at this meeting,” said Rectenwald. “As I said before, you certainly can appoint somebody but you’re not required to, so I think that you probably have to get through that initial issue first.”
Commissioner Ware said she mentioned at the previous meeting about having a process to solicit people to apply for the position, if the commission decided to appoint someone. Rectenwald said that would be fine, because it’s not something that’s really addressed in the charter.
Hearing that, Calhoun informed that her suggestion to appoint a person to fill an unexpired role due to death, until an election, is nothing new.
“I would like to say this that Commissioner Katie Jones passed, and the previous commission what they did was, they nominated Commissioner (Gloria) Moon that night,” Calhoun recalled. “The commission voted to have her to sit in the seat until the election and it was passed by the commission to have Ms. Moon sit at the seat until the May election; so it has been done.
“We, the commission, as a commission, we can do that if we so desire,” she said.
Calhoun said the seat has already been vacant for more than eight months; thus, she didn’t think it was wise to wait any longer, considering the fact that the commission is making some important decisions.
“We don’t have time to wait. Four more months, it’s another election,” she said. “The people, the citizens in District 2 need representation. We’re making important decisions. We’re voting on things and District 2 is not being represented.
“I get phone calls,” she shared. “I’m hearing from citizens saying: ‘When are we going to be represented; why we can’t have a representative?’”
Calhoun said she didn’t see a problem having Morris sit in the seat until the May election.
“We need someone in that seat to represent District 2 and I really don’t see what the problem is,” she said.
Lewis said he agrees that the district needs representation, but just wanted to give citizens at least two weeks to show interest and make them aware of the vacancy.
“They could put a name in the hat, because people didn’t know they could sit in that seat,” he said.
Calhoun reminded that they discussed it at the prior meeting. Lewis said not officially.
“We were throwing the idea around,” he said.
After Calhoun’s motion failed, commissioners proceeded with the idea of accepting applications for the position, and advertising it.
“Let that come to the commission and then the commission make a decision,” Brown suggested.
Calhoun said she didn’t agree with that. Ware said she did because she felt they needed transparency.
“I feel we need to increase transparency; and part of the transparency is giving everyone the option,” said Ware. “It may be Mr. Morris is chosen, if that’s what he wants, to put his name in for it.”
Ware said while she did receive an email from Morris, stating his interest, she felt adding two weeks to the process to allow others in District 2 an equal opportunity to also express interest would be fair.
“Some people understand city government better than others, and that would give everyone the opportunity,” said Ware.
Frustrated, Calhoun reminded that only two people ran for the seat in May and that was Morris and Beil.
“No one else was interested in the job,” Calhoun said.
“All I want is a body sitting in that seat,” she pointed, “and you’re talking about this process. The district has waited long enough.
“Mr. Morris is qualified because he ran, he meets all the criteria,” Calhoun added. I don’t understand, it’s just four months. So in May, Mr. Morris or anyone else can run for that seat; and may the best person win.”
The commission proceeded with a motion by Lewis to advertise for the vacancy and accept applications and review for consideration.
Calhoun said she wasn’t agreeing with that if it meant waiting to the first meeting in February to appoint someone.
“That’s going to be nine months (without District 2 representation). If it was your district wouldn’t you want someone sitting in your seat?” she asked. “I’m not agreeing with that.”
Ware said she totally understands, but her concern is beyond just wanting to fill a seat.
“I want to make sure it’s a transparent process and we do it as expediently as possible,” said Ware.
Ending the discussion, the commission decided in a 4-1 vote to move forward with Lewis’ motion to advertise for the seat for two weeks and appoint someone at the Feb. 13 meeting. Bonner seconded the motion. Calhoun opposed.
According to city officials, the boundaries of District 2 are: West Grand Boulevard, Morrison Street, South Allen Street, Pemberton Street, Billups Street, State Highway 43 South, West and East Pinecrest Drive, U.S. Highway 59 South, East Travis Street, and South and North Alamo Street.