To fill two midterm vacancies on the City Council, Keene’s mayor said he’d rather see replacements who don’t intend to run for the positions in the fall, in the interest of leaving it “up to the voters.”
Six residents have declared their candidacy since the filing period opened July 2 — three for an open seat in ward 4 and three for an at-large position.
Per Keene’s city charter, the sitting councilors vote to fill vacancies until the electorate can choose replacements in the next election. (The terms for these positions runs through Dec. 31.)
Both positions will then appear on the ballot in the city’s elections this fall — typical two-year term for the at-large seat, and the remainder of the ward seat’s term, which will run two years from Jan. 1, 2020, through Dec. 31, 2021.
When the councilors vote to fill the vacancies Aug. 1, Mayor Kendall W. Lane said Saturday he hopes they will pick applicants who don’t plan to campaign in the fall. (Keene’s mayor only votes to break a tie.)
“If we were doing this in January, if we were doing this at the end of last year, I would feel differently,” Lane said.
But because the interim positions will be filled so close to the city elections, Lane argued that it could be interpreted as an endorsement of a candidate and would likely give the candidate an advantage. Voters should decide who represents them, Lane said, not city councilors.
With the year winding down, he added, the five-month head start wouldn’t offer much experience to a new councilor between vacations, elections and holidays.
Two residents who filed last week noted in their applications that they don’t plan to run in the fall: Frederick B. Parsells, one of the ward 4 candidates, and Margaret M. “Maggie” Rice, who resigned as ward 4 councilor in June because she moved to a different ward.
No one, Lane said, should feel discouraged from running for a seat, especially in the fall. The goal is to ensure the elections remain impartial to all candidates, he said, and if the council votes in two people who don’t plan to run, there will be “two wide-open seats” up for grabs.
“I would encourage anybody who has any interest in serving on the City Council to file … and go through the election process,” Lane said. “I certainly would hope that any decision by the council doesn’t influence that.”