It’s happened before, but never on this scale.
Two city commissioners — Paul Caragiulo and Shannon Snyder — have submitted their letters of resignation to the city. Effective in November, the resignations are mandated by state law while both commissioners run for the open District 2 County Commission seat.
With those departures set, the remaining three commissioners are responsible for filling those seats for the five months before the election. Both seats will come up for election in March, but the City Commission must appoint interim commissioners to serve the remainder of the departing commissioners’ terms.
Last week, the City Commission directed staff to draft an ordinance establishing the procedure for accepting and considering applications from candidates interested in serving on the board. Beginning in September, the commission will accept applications, with respondents required to fill out the same form the governor’s office uses when it appoints replacements to open positions.
The commission will ultimately make its choices in late November or early December. We spoke with commissioners about the criteria they believe should be used in the selection process and other factors that will come into play:
Mayor Willie Shaw
On the qualities he’s looking for in a replacement: We decided we would follow the document that the governor’s appointees used. (I haven’t decided on anything else) at this point in time. I don’t think we’ve gotten there yet.
On the role of political ideology in the selection process: These are nonpartisan positions. I don’t think politics should play any role. I think that the interest of the city should be the utmost question posed to any of the candidates.
Commissioner Suzanne Atwell at-large
On the qualities she’s looking for in a replacement: I think now, more than ever, we need an applicant who will maintain some balance. I hope that whoever applies will have a balanced approach on issues that come before us and not use this opportunity as a platform to move a particular agenda forward. We really need to maintain balance. It’s a fairly short period of time, but you never know what’s going to come up. We have, in our community, a lot of people who could fill this in a balanced way.
On considering district representation: When you govern, you’ve got to look at all sides of the issue. We all have our own ideology about different things, but that’s the great responsibility of governing.
Obviously, there are different needs in each district, but every vote we take, I believe, in some way, affects every citizen in the community. Of course, there are different needs in different neighborhoods, but sometimes when you vote on something in one neighborhood, it’ll really benefit another neighborhood. ... I think it’s true that we do have districts, and you do want to keep in touch with your district, but everybody touches everybody in this community.
Vice-Mayor Susan Chapman at-large
On the qualities she’s looking for in a replacement: Ability to collaborate. Knowledge of city issues. Some kind of history of working with the group. ... It needs to be somebody who has the capacity to be effective right away. There will be issues that will need to be decided in these six months. You can’t defer every major decision for six months. I’ll be looking for someone who is recognized as qualified.
On endorsing the use of the form used by the governor’s office to select replacements: I wanted enough information to make an informed decision. I thought the form required enough discipline that someone wouldn’t apply on just a lark.
On selecting an interim commissioner interested in running in March: I think there’s no way that you can have someone make that kind of promise (not to run). My goal is to think of the best interests of the city and all of the various issues that need to be decided in six months.
Commissioner Paul Caragiulo, District 2
On the factors he believes should be taken into account when selecting his replacement: I would want them to pick someone who they think would best serve the city and the citizens. I hope they appoint someone they feel they can work with.
On the role of political ideology in the selection process: I don’t think it should play any role. I think that the commission — it’s going to be a huge change. I think there’s going to be certainly less 3-2 votes and a lot more 4-1 or 5-0 votes.
On his comfort with a potential replacement that holds different views on key issues: I was OK with it when I thought it was going to be four people making the decision (before Snyder entered the race). I’m not so OK with it now. That’s not my call.
On identifying potential replacements: I think there are a lot of people who would be good for the job — I don’t think that they are necessarily people who would do it. I don’t have anyone that I’m advocating for.
Commissioner Shannon Snyder, District 3
On the factors he believes should be taken into account when selecting his replacement: I think they’re going to have good criteria. I think it’s usually someone who has been involved in city issues. Most of it will be pretty much common sense. … I think it’s just down-home, who’s the best person for the job at the moment and willing to do it.
On the role of political ideology in the selection process: You can’t pigeonhole people because you think one way. I think the average city voter just wants to find somebody who’s honest. There might be a difference between Commissioner Chapman and myself — we have very different views on how we get somewhere — but I think when you ask the average city voter, they’ll say, “He thinks this way, she thinks that way, but one thing we know about both of them: They’re honest people.” The average city voter — they want to look you in the eye, they want to shake your hand.
Sept. 2 to 12: Tentative dates during which the City Commission will accept applications to fill vacant positions on the board.
Nov. 18: Resig-nation date of commissioners Caragiulo and Snyder.
Nov. 19 to 30: The commission could hold a special meeting to appoint replacements following the resignations so the replacement commissioners can sit at the last regular meeting of the year.
Dec. 1: Last regular City Commission meeting of the year
Dec. 9: Deadline for selecting replacement candidates.
Jan. 5 to 9: Qualifying period for City Commission district seats in the spring election
March 10: City Election Day
May 12: Run-off Election Day, if necessary
May 15: Final day of the interim District 2 and 3 commissioners’ terms
Contact David Conway at firstname.lastname@example.org