Carrboro Special Election Set For March 19

By Elizabeth Friend Posted January 16, 2013 at 5:15 pm

CARRBORO- Holding a special election to fill the seat left vacant by the resignation ofAlderman Dan Coleman could cost the Town of Carrboro up to $18,000.

“It’s worth it, but just barely,” said Mayor Mark Chilton.

By a unanimous vote on Tuesday, the board of aldermen agreed to host the election on March 19, and open the candidate filing period for two weeks from February 1 though February 15. In an effort to keep costs down, early voting will only be available at the Board of Elections in Hillsborough.

The board does not have the option of appointing a new member, due to changes in the town charter put in place after the board’s last appointment, which happened to be that of Dan Coleman, in 2006.

That process proved so controversial that leaders were prompted to change the town charter to remove the option of board appointments. Alderwoman Jacquie Gist recalled serving on the board at the time.

“Our last appointment was really so contentious that it took a while for the community to heal afterward, and out of that came the commitment from this board that voters should decide who’s representing them,” said Gist.

Now vacancies must be filled by election, either during the general election in November, or during a special election held in the spring.

But Chilton said, seven years later, the decision to remove the appointment option seems shortsighted.

“I’m beginning to think it may be one of the silliest decisions I ever made, but it is the decision I made,” said Chilton. “I think we need to move forward with it.”

This will be Carrboro’s first special election under the new rules, but it might also be its last. Even as they agreed to set a date, board members called to reevaluate the appointment process.

“Now that a vacancy has actually arisen, I think a lot of us are wondering whether it is really worth spending thousands of taxpayer dollars on filling a seat through democracy, or whether it’s better to make a short term appointment and then let the regular election process fill it for the future,” said Chilton.

The board could ask the General Assembly to amend the town charter again to reinstate the appointment option, but board members agreed they would carry through with the special election before launching that process.

Whoever is elected to the seat will serve the remainder of Coleman’s term, which ends in 2015. So far, only Carrboro Planning Board Chair Damon Seils has announced he plans to run.

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