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Aldermen Opt For Special Election to Fill Vacancy

CARRBORO- By a 4-2 vote, the Carrboro Board of Aldermen on Tuesday opted to hold a special election to fill the seat left vacant when Lydia Lavelle stepped up to serve as mayor earlier this month.

“It is the principle of democracy,” said Alderman Jacquie Gist. “But it’s also getting out there and figuring out what’s going on. We all learn so much when we are out campaigning. Even though [the board] could do a perfectly great job of it, I’d rather turn it over to the electorate.”

The election will be held concurrent with the May 6 primary next year. The cost to the town will be $1,500. That’s a far cry from the town’s first special election held last March, which cost the town $11,000. In that election, Damon Seils ran unopposed and won with 232 votes.

He urged the board to consider the appointment process instead.

“Having a special election for what will effectively be an eighteen-month term, out of a four-year term, just seems like overdoing it a little bit,” said Seils.

Michelle Johnson also supported the idea of a board appointment. She argued changing the process each time creates uncertainty for the public.

“I think it is important to have a clear process and not change it based on whatever we want to do at a given time,” said Johnson.

Most municipalities in the state fill vacancies through appointment, but in 2006 Carrboro leaders requested the General Assembly grant the board the power to call a special election. This came after a contentious appointment process that lasted six weeks, resulting in the appointment of Dan Coleman.

However, following March’s special election, Aldermen reversed course and asked that the board’s power to appoint be reinstated.

During Tuesday’s discussion, several board members seemed split on the question of which to choose. Though Randee Haven-O’Donnell said she initially supported an appointment, she worried the process could prove divisive.

“I have said in the past I support appointment, but I would not want this decision to erode the trust that we have between us on this board,” said Haven-O’Donnell.

In the end, Haven-O’Donnell, Lavelle, Gist and Sammy Slade voted in favor of a May election, while Seils and Johnson were opposed.


Carrboro Aldermen To Pick Election or Appointment December 10

CARRBORO- Carrboro Aldermen voted unanimously on Tuesday to schedule a special session December 10 for the purpose of deciding how to fill the upcoming vacancy on the board.

When Lydia Lavelle is sworn in as mayor on December 3, she’ll leave an empty seat on the board. The Aldermen must choose to fill the vacancy by appointment or at a special election held during the May primary.

Although they also have the option to hold a separate town-wide special election before May, board members last week ruled that out as too expensive.

Carrboro’s special election this past March to fill Dan Coleman’s seat cost the Town approximately $18,000. Damon Seils was the sole candidate; he won with 232 votes.

Prior to that, the last vacancy filled on the board was that of Mark Chilton, who, like Lavelle, left a seat open when he was elected Mayor of Carrboro in 2005.

According to the town’s charter, the board must launch the replacement process at the first meeting after a seat becomes vacant.


Carrboro Special Election Set For March 19

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.