Decorah City Council decides to fill both seats by appointment
Wednesday, November 20, 2013 2:57 AM
Two vacancies on the Decorah City Council will be filled by appointment unless a special election is called.
At its meeting Monday night, the Council voted 5-1 to fill Rachel Vagts' at-large position by appointment. Vagts, currently the Luther College archivist, resigned her seat effective Dec. 31 because she has been hired as the head of special collections and archives at Berea College in Berea, Ky. She is in her second, four-year term on the Council.
Since two years are remaining on Vagts' term, Council member Randy Schissel suggested the Council consider holding a special election to fill the vacancy. He was the only Council member voting against filling the opening by appointment.
The Council will be setting a deadline for Decorah citizens interested in serving as the at-large representative to submit an application for the position. City Clerk Wanda Hemesath said a notice about the at-large vacancy would be published in the Dec. 19 Decorah Journal that would allow the Council to consider making an appointment at its Jan. 6 meeting.
Making the appointment at the Council's first meeting of the year would keep the position filled without interruption, said Council member Paul Wanless, who made the motion to begin the appointment process.
"It's worked well in the past -- getting people to apply for the position and having the Council appoint," Council member Gary Rustad said.
Citizens have 14 days after publication of a notice of vacancy or 14 days after the Council makes an appointment to petition for a special election, which costs about $3,000 to hold, according to City Manager Chad Bird.
Vagts, who starts her new job Feb. 1, said she wanted to give the Council time to fill her position since work on the city's next fiscal budget starts in January.
Mayor Don Arendt thanked Vagts for her "special leadership" as chair of the Council's personnel committee.
"That's a big task," he said.
"It taught me a great deal," Vagts responded.
A Ward 5 vacancy was created due to the results of the Nov. 5 city election.
Schissel, who has served as the Ward 5 Council representative, now lives in the new Ward 1 due to redistricting following the 2010 census. In the election earlier this month, Schissel defeated Council member Jarrad Walter, who was appointed this summer to fill a Ward 1 vacancy after John Franzen resigned from the position. After the election, Schissel immediately filled the Ward 1 seat.
Monday night, the Council voted unanimously to fill the Ward 5 opening through Council appointment. Charles Lore was elected to serve Ward 5 in the Nov. 5 election, but doesn't officially take office until Jan. 1. The mayor said Lore is willing to begin serving earlier and Wanless said by beginning the appointment process now, he could be named to the seat at the Council's Dec. 2 meeting.
"If he could be here the whole month of December it would be good to get him in here and get him going," Wanless said.