Superior council sets special election to fill 3rd District vacancy

Councilors were not inclined to appoint someone to fill the 3rd District vacancy prior to the April 4 election.

Government Center in Superior
Government Center, Superior, Wisconsin.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram
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SUPERIOR — The City Council set a special election Tuesday, Nov. 22, to fill a vacancy in the 3rd District left by former councilor Warren Bender’s resignation.
Warren Bender
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

However, councilors declined to fill the vacancy by appointment prior to the April 4 election.

The special election will run concurrent with the spring election when voters will decide who will serve as mayor and as representatives in even-numbered council districts.

“The election will proceed like any other council election,” Mayor Jim Paine said.

Candidates vying for a seat on the council can begin circulating nomination papers Dec. 1, which must be filed with the City Clerk’s Office no later than Jan. 3 to be included on the ballot. If three or more candidates are on the ballot, a primary will be held Feb. 21 to narrow the field to two candidates in advance of the April 4 election.


“What would be the ramifications if we didn’t fill that seat until April 4?” Councilor Mike Herrick asked.

City Attorney Frog Prell said the 10-member council would simply operate with nine members until the election.

“I don’t see a lot of risk or downside to your doing business as a governmental entity with nine instead of 10 given the relatively short duration of time,” Prell said.

The biggest challenge could be achieving quorum if three members of the body are unable to attend in person, Paine said. Quorum for the 10-member body is seven councilors physically present in the chamber; meetings cannot be held without a quorum.

“I guess I don’t have a strong opinion on whether we appoint or keep vacant,” Councilor Brent Fennessey said. Appointing someone now, as the campaign season is getting underway, could be a disadvantage for the appointee as they work to get up to speed on city matters, he said.

Herrick and Councilor Jack Sweeney expressed concern that incumbency could give the appointee an unfair advantage in the election.

That wasn’t the case last year, when former councilor Craig Sutherland resigned from the 8th District seat. While the council chose to appoint Robert Pierce to fill the vacancy until the special election, Pierce was defeated by Herrick in April.

“I would strongly favor letting the people choose over appointing a candidate,” Council President Jenny Van Sickle said of what she learned from last year’s appointment. ”I just feel like it is a very short time, like Attorney Prell said. I know there are drawbacks to that. But I don’t know if there are bigger drawbacks to us making that decision.”


Herrick asked who would represent the people in the 3rd District if an issue arose in the interim if the council chose not to appoint someone to fill the seat until April.

“Well, I represent them all; the mayor’s office is at their disposal,” Paine said. His office would prioritize 3rd District residents’ concerns, he said.

Councilors took no action to fill the vacancy by appointment.

If they change their minds, Paine encouraged them to contact his office so the matter can be placed on a future council agenda for consideration.

For information about running for office, contact the city clerk at 715-395-7200 or ; or search for “run for local office” at .

Shelley Nelson is a reporter with the Duluth Media Group since 1997, and has covered Superior and Douglas County communities and government for the Duluth News Tribune from 1999 to 2006, and the Superior Telegram since 2006. Contact her at 715-395-5022 or
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