The Cary Town Council will be short one member until next fall.
The Cary Town Council, which has seven members, voted 5-2 on Tuesday to leave Gale Adcock’s seat vacant when she resigns at the end of the year to take office in the N.C. House of Representatives.
Adcock, a Democrat, defeated incumbent Morrisville Republican Tom Murry in November in the race to represent western Cary in state House District 41 starting next year.
The council considered appointing someone to represent District D, located in central Cary, through an application process or leaving the seat open until voters elect someone to the position next fall. Adcock’s term ends at the end of 2015.
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Adcock joined the four male Cary Council members in voting against taking action. Council members Lori Bush and Jennifer Robinson voted against the motion, arguing that the council has a duty to appoint someone.
The majority said they favored leaving the seat vacant because they feared the appointment process would be too lengthy and would possibly give the appointee an unfair advantage of incumbency if he or she decided to seek reelection in October.
“We have three other representatives who I believe represent District D just as much as they do the rest of the town,” said Councilman Ed Yerha, referring to the council’s two at-large members and the mayor.
State law says the council is responsible for filling vacant council seats, but it doesn’t say how it should be filled or the deadline for doing so.
While Cary and Raleigh address each vacancy on a case-by-case basis, major North Carolina municipalities such as Asheville, Chapel Hill, Charlotte and Durham have adopted processes for filling them, according to Cary town staff.
In recent years, the Cary council has struggled to appoint new members swiftly and unanimously.
In 2012, it took the council nearly three months to replace councilwoman Julie Robison, who resigned from her at-large seat with about two years left on her term to move out of state. The council appointed Yerha after a 4-2 vote.
In 2006, a partisan deadlock prolonged the process for seven months before the council appointed Erv Portman to replace councilman Mike Joyce.
Mid-March is the earliest the council could swear in a new member, according to town staff. The town would need to advertise that it is accepting applications, review the applications, interview the applicants and then vote to appoint someone.
Yerha said he didn’t want to give someone an “unfair advantage of incumbency.” He ran unopposed last year in his first election after being appointed.
However, council members want to fill the vacancy before the end of 2015, rather than wait until December, the traditional time to swear in the new council. They hope to swear in the next District D representative as soon as possible after the October election.
In the meantime, they’ll have to find a way to break ties in the event the council votes 3-3. Cary will have three registered Republicans, two registered Democrats and one unaffiliated council member after Adcock resigns.
Mayor Harold Weinbrecht said he doesn’t foresee any problems. The six council members will likely engage debate on issues further to try to break ties, he said.
“I can’t remember the last time we had a 4-3 vote,” he said.