MORRIS - By Kim Ukura
The Morris City Council formally voted to declare a vacancy on the city council at their meeting Tuesday, and is seeking applications from those interested in filling council member Twig Webster's seat through the election in November.
Eligible citizens interested in serving on the council can submit a letter of intent to Mayor Sheldon Giese. The council hopes to fill the vacancy as soon as possible, and will likely make the appointment at their next meeting on July 24.
According to Morris' city charter, the council has 30 days after declaring the vacancy to appoint an eligible person to fill Webster's seat until the election on Nov. 6. If the council does not make the appointment in that time, Giese has an additional 10 days to fill the vacancy himself.
The city charter is silent, however, on what process or criteria the city council should use in choosing an interim replacement for a vacated seat, and the council did not make any formal declarations about how they would make a decision at Tuesday's meeting.
Council member Jeff Miller initially suggested tabling the vote on the vacancy until later in July to give the council time to see who might file to run for Webster's seat, then making the appointment with that information.
This led to some discussion about whether or not the interim candidate should be someone who intends to run for city council in November and if that should impact the council's decision on whom to appoint.
"Do we want to put ourselves in the position of we're going to, in essence, pre-screen candidates to at least put someone in from August until November?" asked Giese.
"I don't think it's a pre-screening kind of thing; if people show an interest and the dates are spelled out about how the election would work, that's their decision," said Webster.
"I don't think an appointment endorses anyone," Webster added later.
Miller said that he'd like to see some continuation with the seat, so the interim wouldn't just be a five or six month filler until a new council member was elected for two years.
"We're making an appointment - if we get a list and we make a choice, if the public, when they vote, overrules us, that's great," said Miller. "We go forward with our best choice."
Giese told the council that if they don't make a decision in the next 30 days, he is prepared to appoint someone to fill the vacancy.
"If I had to do it on my own, I would not appoint someone that is going to run; I would just appoint an interim that would just be an interim and let the [voters] decide who's going to serve," said Giese.
Candidates who are interested in running for city council must file between July 31 and Aug. 14. Candidates will have to declare whether they are running for one of two four-year terms, or to fill the remaining two years of Webster's current term.
As of Tuesday, Giese said he had received information from one candidate interested in the interim position who also is planning to file for election.
The appointed council member will serve until Nov. 6, when a new council member will be elected and take office the first meeting after that.
If the council does not make the appointment at their meeting on July 24, they will still have the option to make a decision within the 30 days window at their next meeting, which was moved from Aug. 14 to Aug. 7.