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Empty Council

Posted on Tuesday, April 10, 2012 at 6:06 pm

Written by Tabitha D. Moore, Editor & Publisher

There was a time in Moore County when an open Metro Council seat was a big deal. Multiple local residents would qualify for the much-coveted elected office – creating sometimes-heated races between neighbors.

It seems those days are past.

Last Thursday, only three locals qualified for the six open Metro Council seats. Coleman March, the current Metro Council Chairman, was the lone qualifying candidate from district one.

Linda Wolaver and David Boyce were the only two candidates to qualify for district four. The Council appointed Wolaver to replace Karl Prydom at its March 19 meeting. Boyce does not currently serve on the Council.

This means first district council members Parks Norman and Jackie Burton as well as fourth district member Oscar McGee declined to re-run.

When asked why he chose not to rerun for the fourth district seat, McGee simply offers a knowing grin.

“I really enjoyed my time on the Council,” he says. “But it’s time to let someone else take a turn.”

To date, McGee has served just eight short months on the Council. He was appointed to take the seat left vacant by Dr. Neil Becker last September.

 Quorum Quandry

It’s a situation that could leave Metro Moore County in a quandary come this fall should the Council not have a quorum (or the minimum number of members necessary to conduct business, which in Metro Moore County’s case is a simple majority of eight members)– potentially bringing Metro business to a screeching halt.

Even if a quorum were present, it could leave the interests of the first and fourth districts, – which are up for re-election – under-represented during the September and October Metro Council meeting.

March, Parks Norman and Jackie Burton currently represent the first district and Oscar McGee, Arvis Bobo and Linda Wolaver currently represent the fourth district. However, those terms end on August 31 and Norman, Burton, McGee and Bobo have not indicated that they plan to re-seek the office, according to Election Coordinator Judy Copeland.

 So what happens next?

According to Copeland, the three qualified candidates – March, Wolaver and Boyce – will be added to the Aug. 2 ballot and are automatically elected to the open Council seats. March and Wolaver will continue their existing term. Boyce, March and Wolaver would be sworn in on September 1.

How the vacant seats get filled depends on how Metro decides to handle an empty Council seat.

According to the Metro Charter, vacant Council seats are filled by a public election in the next general election. The Charter defines a vacant seat as one created by “recall, ouster, death, resignation, or the member moving out of the district he or she represents.”

“The Charter doesn’t tell us what to do when a seat becomes empty because not enough people want it,” says Mayor Sloan Stewart.

Since these three seats will become empty as of the current General Election, which takes place on Aug. 2, it’s unclear whether local voters would have an opportunity to recast their votes for the first and fourth district metro council members during Nov. 6’s Presidential Election or if the Council would need to elect new members during their September or October meeting, who would hold the office until the next general election.

Also in question is the minimum number of days an empty seat must be advertised in the form of a public notice in this newspaper.

Metro Council members serve four-year terms and are elected on an alternating schedule. To qualify, a candidate must be a legal resident of Moore County for at least one year and must reside within the district they are seeking to represent for at least six months.

According to Metro Mayor Sloan Stewart, he and Metro Attorney John T. Bobo were working with local and state election officials to determine the appropriate steps for filling the vacant Council seats.

Stay tuned.

Council Election Timeline

April 5 – Qualifying Deadline

Aug. 2 – County General Election

Aug. 31 – Council Terms Expire

Sept. 1 – New Council Term Begins

Sept. 17– Metro Council Meeting

Oct. 15 – Metro Council Meeting

Nov. 6 – Presidential Election