The Archer Lodge Town Council intends to fill its vacant seat next month.
Last week, the five-member body accepted the resignation of Councilman Carlton Vinson, who announced in October that he planned to leave the council because of work obligations.
Town Administrator C.L. Gobble said council members would likely submit nominations during their Dec. 5 work session and then fill the vacancy a week later, at their Dec. 12 regular meeting.
For a young town, Archer Lodge has had a lot of council turnover, but none of it for political reasons.
Vinson marks the third original council member to resign. The first was John Perry, who was replaced by Mark Wilson. Next was Jeff Barnes, who was replaced by Mark Jackson. In both replacements, the council opted against looking to runners-up in previous elections. That’s how many elected board fill vacancies.
Mayor Mike Gordon defended allowing council members to nominate replacements, saying the practice had produced solid councilmen in Wilson and Jackson. Councilman Matt Mulhollem agreed.
“This council has faced this two times now and we have used the nomination process, and I agree it seems to have worked fine,” Mulhollem said.
But some on the council dissented. Though chosen by nomination himself, Wilson said the council should zero in on the next highest vote-getter from the 2015 election. That would be a significant decision for Archer Lodge, as Debbie Barnes finished fourth out of four candidates in the last election and would be the first female council member in Archer Lodge. Barnes collected 99 votes, about 50 votes behind Jackson’s successful bid.
“I think (the replacements) did go well, but we have a different system going into this particular vacancy, whereas we have sitting out there the next highest vote-getter from the last election,” Wilson said. “Though statute does not require council to do that, my own personal feeling is if any one of us were sitting out there as the next highest vote-getter, we would hope the council would choose the next highest vote-getter from the last election.”
Wilson voted against the nomination process, saying he “couldn’t negate the 99 votes cast in the last election.”
The process wouldn’t necessarily preclude the council from nominating Barnes to replace Vinson, but Gobble suggested nominations could come from names of residents currently serving on the town’s planning board or other town committees. Mulhollem said he has some names he’s considering and wanted to cast a wider net than just the fourth-place finisher in the town’s last election.
“I was in favor of this approach because it broadens the pool of candidates who can be considered,” Mulhollem said.