Vacancy on Spencer Board of Aldermen remains unfilled

Published 12:10 am Wednesday, December 12, 2018

By Andie Foley

SPENCER — A seat vacated by Kevin Jones remains unfilled on the Spencer Board of Alderman following a Tuesday meeting with high tensions.

Jones resigned during the board’s November meeting following his election to the Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education. Mayor Jim Gobbel said the board had moved to nominate resident Jonathan Williams to fill his vacancy at the same meeting.

But the motion was made with procedural errors, meaning the board would need to rescind its vote before deciding how to fill the vacancy, Gobbel said.

The vote was rescinded unanimously before board members proceeded with discussions on how to fill the vacant seat.

Gobbel reminded the board that Williams had been previously approved by a vote of 4-1. Alderman Mike Boone said, considering this prior vote, he would like to proceed with the same decision as before.

“We as a board have the right to choose whoever we would like to have on the board. It does not have to go by votes,” he said. “The public does not have to be involved.”

His comments addressed come concerns raised by community members regarding a lack of community input before Williams’ November appointment.

Boone stressed that Williams would just be a replacement to carry out the remainder of Jones’ term, which would expire at the end of 2019.

“Then, if another person so wishes to run for the board, they can do that,” he said.

But Alderman David Lamanno said he felt that the the board first needed to first establish its means of filling the vacancy before doing so.

“Do we have this so-called tradition where it’s gone by the next(-highest) vote getter, or do we decide to do it this way where we just pick somebody?” he said.

Alderman David Smith read a Salisbury Post letter to the editor wherein a former Spencer resident cited this tradition. According to the letter’s author, Kelly Miller, the town would general offer vacated seats to the next-highest vote recipient from the previous municipal election. She said that former-alderman Howard White should be offered the position.

White ran for re-election to the board in 2017, falling seventh on the ballot behind Smith with 173 votes. Smith received 196.

But Gobbel baulked at the idea of tradition, saying he had been asked to fill an empty alderman seat when he was still serving on the planning board. Smith said he had also been asked to fill a seat before serving or running.

In the end, Boone and Alderwoman Sylvia Chillcott would vote in favor of appointing Williams, stating that no other community members had come forward to express interest in the seat.

“To my knowledge, no one has shown an interest in this seat except for one person,” said Boone. “This person did come talk with the board when we were getting ready to nominate. … I think most of us were very impressed with what he said. He is very, very qualified. … He has a lot of knowledge in what we’re seeking here as far as the Park Plaza and other areas.”

It appeared as though the motion to appoint Williams had carried 3-2 with Boone, Chillcott and Smith voting in favor of his appointment. However, members of the audience said that Smith had voted both for and against Williams.

By roll call, Smith voted to deny Williams’ appointment.

Williams may still be considered at the board’s next meeting in January, but opposing members seek to reach out to 2017 candidates before proceeding.

“I’ve got nothing against Mr. Williams, but … we should at least reach out to Howard and Rashid Mohammad and see if they’re interested in that position,” said Lamanno. “If they’re not, then we can bring Mr. Williams forward for a nomination. To me, that only seems fair.”