By SHELLY WILKISON
A special meeting called last week for the purpose of filling a vacant seat on the City Council ended with elected officials divided on the matter and the seat unfilled.
The meeting Jan. 3 was the third attempt by Mayor Jamie Williamson to appoint someone to fill the seat vacated in November by Mike Crane. The Council in December said no to the Mayor’s choice for the seat, but Mayor Williamson said last week that despite that vote, Liz Branigan was still willing to serve.
Mayor Williamson said Connie Fuller, who served as Mayor from 2005 to June 30, 2009, had also expressed an interest in the appointment. Mrs. Fuller, a real estate agent, resigned her position as Mayor after one year into her third term. The seat remained vacant for one year until voters elected Michele “Mike” Murphy in 2010.
While no motion was made to appoint Ms. Branigan, Councilman Wendell McLeod made a motion to appoint Mrs. Fuller to the seat. His motion failed for lack of a second.
“I have concerns about Connie Fuller,” said Mayor Pro Tem Vicki Brewer, who instead supported the appointment of Ms. Branigan. “First, she (Mrs. Fuller) didn’t fulfill her term. And the other concern is why now?
“Why is she just now throwing in her hat as opposed to the last election? I met with Mrs. Fuller. I like her and it’s nothing against her. She expressed that she has some health concerns, and (there are) personal issues she may have.”
McLeod argued that Ms. Branigan received fewer votes than other candidates who sought a council seat last May.
“Why should we appoint someone who wasn’t elected?” McLeod said.
Councilman Sammy Pruett said he thought it was best not to appoint a replacement for Crane. Instead, the voters should fill the seat at election time in May.
“The election is only a few months away and we would better serve the people by letting them decide,” Pruett said.
Mayor Williamson, who can not vote except to break a tie, said the Council has nine more regular meetings until Election Day May 11.
“The potential issue is if someone gets sick and does not show up, we could potentially be in a position of not being able to do city business,” she said. “We have important things around the corner. This council is set up for five (members) plus a mayor. They (citizens) deserve to have a full council working for them.”
Attorney Cathy Reigel said the Council is not required to fill the position. However, should someone else vacate a seat prior to the election, the Council must call an election to fill the vacancies.
Councilman Byron Tippie agreed with Pruett that the Council should not make an appointment.
Tippie said he spoke to two voters prior to the meeting — his parents — who were not happy with either choice to fill the seat.
“It’s all about the people. We should allow the citizens to make that choice in a few months,” he said.
Mrs. Brewer said she did not like the idea of the Mayor voting all of the time to break ties.
The Council has been dividied on a number of issues since it adopted a budget and raised taxes in September.
“Everything is not going to be all rainbows and butterflies,” said Tippie. “It’s hard to make decisions up here.”
Tippie said he came “within two seconds of quitting last week,” but the Mayor talked him out of it. “This is the most thankless job and I haven’t gotten a single check,” he laughed.
After the meeting, Mayor Williamson told The Independent that she would not bring the issue to the Council again.
Mrs. Fuller and Ms. Branigan did not attend the meeting last week.
Place 1 — the seat vacated by Crane — and Place 3, currently held by Tippie, will be up for election in May.