Henderson City Council to accept applications for vacant Ward 3 seat

From Jan. 4-10, Henderson residents can submit applications for the Ward 3 City Council seat, which Councilwoman Kathleen Vermillion is slated to vacate today.

At its Dec. 20 meeting, the Henderson City Council voted 3-1, with Vermillion abstaining, to go forward with an appointment process to fill the vacant seat.

Councilman Sam Bateman voted against the motion.

"I’ll participate in an appointment process if that’s the way the council wants to go," Bateman said. "I’m just leaning toward a special election."

City Clerk Sabrina Mercadante presented three options to the council: an appointment process at an estimated cost of $340; a special election at an estimated cost of $122,500; and a mail-in ballot at an estimated cost of $248,000.

Choosing the appointment process gives the council 30 days from the time Vermillion leaves to fill the vacancy, according to the Henderson Municipal Code.

Mayor Andy Hafen, who has been on the council for the past four appointments, said he was open to hearing thoughts on the three options, but he felt the appointment process was the most financially prudent.

Hafen and Councilwoman Debra March voiced concerns that if the council spent the money for a special election, it could potentially yield a low voter turn out at a high cost.

The 2011 primary election had 15,263 voters out of 131,899 registered voters, while the general election had 10,939 voters.

"We are going to be criticized no matter what we chose," Councilwoman Gerri Schroder said. "That is just the nature of what we do. I think people are going to ask, ‘How could we spend this much money?’ if we went with a special election."

Bateman’s argument was that the council should "enfranchise voters" and give them the option of who they want as representation.

If a special election had been selected, it would have happened in March. The highest vote-getter would have been the winner, regardless of the percentage of votes received.

The council instead will review the applicants and vote for Vermillion’s replacement .

Bateman also brought up concerns about past appointments .

"I think the council made a great decision appointing Debra because she has done a wonderful job," Bateman said, referring to March, who was appointed to the council in 2009 after Hafen was elected mayor.

The concern came from a 1993 appointment process in which it took the council 17 votes to agree on who would be appointed.

"And even then, I think it was 3-1," Bateman said.

The appointment process that March was a part of in 2009 fielded 16 applicants.

"I think we have learned from past mistakes," Hafen said.

Vermillion added that she used to agree with Bateman’s sentiment but has since changed her mind.

"I think the voters will get their choice to pick their candidate," Vermillion said. "However, it will be at a later date. My recommendation is to proceed with the appointment process."

Bateman suggested tying the special election to the federal and state elections slated for June.

"That would save money," Mercadante said. "We just don’t know how much it would save."

Hafen said he wouldn’t be comfortable keeping that seat unoccupied for that long .

The seat must be filled by Feb. 3, according to the municipal code. Mercandante said if the council had chosen a special election, she was unaware of how much time the city would have had to fill the vacancy .

People can file applications with the city clerk’s office at City Hall, 240 S. Water St.

Applicants must adhere to the guidelines to become a council member including being a Henderson resident for a year and a resident of Ward 3.

Contact Henderson/Anthem View reporter Michael Lyle at mlyle@viewnews.com or 387-5201.

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