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October 23, 2004 > How to fill a Council Vacancy - Newark Style

How to fill a Council Vacancy - Newark Style

The election of Newark Vice Mayor Alberto Torrico to the California Assembly leaves a vacancy on the Newark City Council. TCV asked Mayor David Smith to comment on how this open seat will be filled.

TCV: What procedure will Newark follow to fill the council vacancy?

Mayor Smith: The first fork in the road was to decide whether we would have an election to fill the vacancy or appoint. The reason for not following the election route was that the soonest we could have an election due to state statutes and regulations would be June 7th. If this were the case, we would have a four person council until the winner of the election was sworn in towards the end of June. Then, that person (and anyone else who wanted to run again) would have to put in their filing papers in July for the November election.

On top of that, our City Clerk, Frances Miller-Rogers, estimated that the cost of a special election would be approximately $64,000 minus savings of salary of the councilmember plus the staff time to put together a special election. It seemed crazy to have an election for someone to serve only five months before another election, so we decided that an appointment would be prudent. If there had been two years to go in this circumstance, I am sure we would have had an election.

TCV: What is the application and interview process?

Mayor Smith: How many are interviewed depends upon the number of applicants. We will have to figure that out when we meet on December 9th. I need to work out a method with staff to determine the least cumbersome method for managing a large number of applicants if that occurs. Some of this will be determined when we close the application process on December 3rd.

TCV: What are the legal requirements for applying for a council position?

Mayor Smith: There are only two. An applicant must be a resident of Newark and a registered voter.

TCV: What will be the primary factors when selecting a new councilmember?

Mayor Smith: I worked up some criteria with staff and came up with a list that was suggested to the council. These will appear on the application although the information from applicants is not limited. The questions are: the reason the applicant wants to be appointed; familiarity with the City of Newark's organization and projects (the "get-up-to-speed" factor); prior relevant experience whether governmental, political, community service or volunteer; applicable education; and whether intending to seek election to the Newark City Council in the November election of '05.

TCV: Why would intent to either seek or not seek election in '05 be a factor?

Mayor Smith: It depends on whether the council wishes to have someone just serve for 11 months and then depart. We may have a list of candidates that includes former council members, planning commissioners, even staff people. Some of these people may want to step in to help until the next election but not for an additional four years.

TCV: Some people who apply may not be able to make that determination at this time.

Mayor Smith: I mentioned that at the council meeting on Thursday night. This is something we will have to consider. We also added another question that asks candidates about their budgetary priorities. The application asks for a 200-400 word statement from the candidate. A resume can be included, if desired, as well.

TCV: Has there been a lot of interest so far?

Mayor Smith: Not a lot so far. Many may have been waiting until they knew what we were going to do.

At my direction, Al [Huezo] (City Manager) has engaged his executive team and some individuals, primarily our City Clerk Frances Miller-Rogers, who have done a tremendous amount of research to help us with this process. There are no real hard and fast guidelines to this.

One email I received summed up where we need to keep our focus. It ended with the sentence, "Just give us someone with the good of Newark at heart." At the end of the day, if whoever we end up with can pass muster on that point, we cannot go too far wrong.

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