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Candidates needed for 6th Council District

Kara SchmidtTylor Elm 

Some thought Tylor Elm should fill the seat vacated by the resignation of 6th District City Councilor Graham Garfield.

After all, six weeks ago, voters narrowly returned Garfield to office. Elm lost the April 4 election by one vote. Garfield resigned under public pressure after being charged in connection with pointing a gun at his fiancee.

"I don't want to see the position left vacant; I think that's a disservice to the people of the 6th District," said Councilor Brent Fennessey, who represents the 5th District, and nominated Elm to fill the vacancy for the remainder of the term.

Councilor Craig Sutherland seconded the motion. He said Elm did the work in the election, and it was only fair to voters who supported Elm to appoint him to the seat.

"I do not believe that we should just appoint anybody," said Council President Dan Olson. "There's a process that we've done in the past."

City Clerk Terri Kalan looked back 20 years to determine how the Council handled past appointments to the body. She said in two instances, candidates were appointed to fill the term, five were appointed to fill four to eight months of the remaining term, one seat was vacated in November and was left vacant.

Council candidates begin petitioning for the April election in December.

"I found no instances where a vacancy was fill for more than one year," Kalan said.

Olson said if there is more than one person interested in the seat, they should have the opportunity in a democracy.

"In my opinion, I don't believe we should be filling this position tonight," Olson said. "We're not giving anyone else in the 6th District a chance by coming forward."

Councilor Jenny Van Sickle agreed with Olson.

"In a local election, the margins are small," Van Sickle said. "That's just what's true. I also feel that we have to recognize that this particular recommendation was not elected by his district. I don't think it's appropriate for us to automatically appoint that seat."

She said it should be an open, transparent process.

Councilor Jack Sweeney said his preference would be that whomever is selected to fill the seat, only finishes the first year of the term, letting voters in the 6th District decide who would represent them with a special election next year.

The special election would coincide with the elections for odd-numbered council districts and the county board in April.

"I don't think someone should be appointed for two years," Sweeney said.

Fennessey said he believes that by not appointing Elm, it takes the voice away from the voters who supported him.

"I think for us to go any other direction than Tylor Elm would be a disservice to citizens of the 6th District," said Fennessey, who said he would be fine with a shortening the term and holding a special election next year.

"More people voted against him," Van Sickle said. She said she would like an open process.

Councilors voted 7-2 against Elm's appointment. Fennessey and Sutherland voted in favor of the appointment.

The Council then turned its attention to how to fill the vacancy.

Candidates have until May 31 to submit 20 nominating signatures, and a letter of intent or resume.

Elm and Kara Schmidt, Garfield's former fiancee and a former youth member of the Douglas County Board, both plan to seek the appointment.

The Council hopes to fill the vacancy at its June 6 meeting. Whoever is appointed will finish the first year of the term, until a special election is help in April 2018.

For more information, contact the City Clerk's Office at (715) 395-7200.