Thu, May 23

Editorial: Filling vacant council seats comes down to good policy

Filling an elected seat outside of the election process can be one of the most confusing and even arbitrary procedures in public life. Even when policy guides the process, voters can be left scratching their heads.

When policy is not very clear or offers too many options or maybe does not exist, voters can be more than confused; they can be very irritated.

The Camp Verde Town Council had a brief and relatively smooth time in filling the seat vacated by Buck Buchanan. The former councilman’s resignation did not come at an awkward time, nor was it unexpected as he is running for another office. The council had a good selection of interested residents wanting to be involved. Policy is clear on the hows and whens of appointing a new member.

The result was the addition of a youthful dynamic to the council with Jessie Jones.

Last year, the Jerome Town Council was faced with two resignations, but promptly asked for applicants, received seven and filled the seats in short order so they could get on with important town business. One of the successful applicants was Nikki Check, who has gone on to become mayor.

Now, the Clarkdale Town Council will have to make an appointment soon to fill the seat vacated by Pat Williams. This discussion may not be as brief nor as smooth as the Camp Verde and Jerome transitions. Williams was just re-elected, meaning her remaining term and her new four-year term are empty. That is awkward timing with a loose policy, leaving the council open to at least three options, which also leaves them open to complaints galore.

The legally simplest recourse would appear to be appointing Anita Simgen, who took the time to run for council this year. But that kind of simplicity seems to be out of bounds.

Policy on these kinds of issues can be too open-ended, and that looks like the case in Clarkdale. That can lead to a rough transition and the appearance of arbitrariness. Town councils face enough confusing issues without confusion of their own making.