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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 Aldermen To Consider Special Election To Fill Board Vacancy

CARRBORO- When Lydia Lavelle is sworn in as Mayor of Carrboro this December she’ll leave a vacancy on the Board of Aldermen. Fellow board members say they want to start planning now for how to fill that open seat.

“I would like us to have a conversation next week on filling Lydia’s seat and how we want to approach that,” said Alderman Jacquie Gist. “There’s a lot of buzz in the community.”

The seat will officially become vacant December 3, but the Aldermen do not meet again after that until January 14. Town Clerk Cathy Wilson told the board they will have to decide on the process after Lavelle is sworn in.

“You can discuss it next week and direct staff to prepare a resolution on which way you want to fill the seat,” said Wilson. “The charter requirement would be, if you decide to fill it by having a special election, then you must make that decision on the meeting after the date when the vacancy occurs.”

The board could choose to fill the seat 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 quickly 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.

The board can’t formally adopt a process yet, but Gist said she’d like to provide clarity to the public now, especially as some are already vying for appointment.

“There’s a lot of lobbying going on from people,” said Gist. “I think we need to have an election because it’s not our seat to give, it’s the people’s seat to vote on. We need to have that conversation.”

The board agreed to discuss the options next Tuesday.


Carrboro Special Election Scheduled For March 19 May Be The Last

RALEIGH – With the special election to fill the vacant seat on the Carrboro Board of Aldermen less than a week away, early voting has only produced one vote in more than a week, and the North Carolina Legislature is working to make sure the unnecessary cost doesn’t happen again.

“(It’s) for one person,” North Carolina Senator and former Carrboro mayor Ellie Kinnaird says. “It’s not as though there (is a) contested election even.”

The one person who filed for the empty seat is former Carrboro Planning Board chair and current member, Damon Seils.

The special election is costing the Town nearly $18,000. Kinnaird says a bill that passed in the Senate on Wednesday and is headed to the House will change the format and eliminate that unneeded cost when a situation like this arises.

“I think there are 500 and some cities and towns that have this particular way of filling a seat with either an election or an appointment,” Senator Kinnaird says. “So, we just want to be like every other city and town that has this particular method of filling a vacancy.”

In fact, Chapel Hill recently filled the empty seat on the Town Council by appointment. That seat was left vacant by Penny Rich when she left for the Orange County Board of Commissioners.

Senator Kinnaird says, as she has often seen, the Orange County based bill may see some opposition even though it’s fairly plain and simple.

“These are freshman and they don’t understand one of the things that you do is you honor your local officials’ requests by running bills that they have decided they want,” Senator Kinnaird says. “But they said, well what if there were a majority who wanted one and not the other, then they would be able to run over the minority. Well, that’s called democracy.”

The bill passed its third reading in the Senate Wednesday afternoon and was sent to the House. If all goes smoothly, it could pass by the end of the day Wednesday, but there are no guarantees.

Carrboro’s special election takes place on March 19.


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.