New Council votes on filling vacancy

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By Jennifer Garcia

The county council saw a changing of the guard Tuesday night as councilors elect Vincent Chiravalle, Sharon Stover and Mike Wismer took the reins from Frances Berting, Jim Hall and Ken Milder.


A new chairman and vice chairman were also elected.


Councilor Michael Wheeler was elected as chairman, while Mike Wismer was elected as vice chair. Wheeler and Wismer were both voted in unanimously.


They were also the only nominees for the seats.


Councilors also decided on how to proceed with filling the councilor vacancy left by Jim West’s resignation. After a 5-1 vote, council decided they would solicit interest from the public by way of letters. Wheeler voted against the motion.


Councilor Robert Gibson said that if West’s term had less time left in it, he would consider appointing someone to replace him. However, since the term expires in 2010, he suggested that council solicit interest from the public.


Chiravalle agreed with Gibson’s suggestion, saying, “I think it’s very important to get the process moving and try and solicit interest from the community. It’s important to have seven people on the council. I favor keeping the door open and allowing the community and those interested parties to express their interest.”


Wismer also agreed with the process that Gibson suggested. He also said that Councilors need to think about the rest of the process and what they’re going to do at the Jan. 27 meeting.


“We might want to figure out our own scoring system and figure out the top three,” Wismer said, “and bring the top three to council. I think this is the right way to go. Let’s make it simple and open it up to the public.”


While Chiravalle and Wismer agreed with Gibson, Wheeler felt that there was a better way to fill the vacancy.


“While I don’t think this is the right way to go about it, it is a way,” Wheeler said. “I continue to believe that the voters spoke and individuals went through the fundraising process, yard sign location process, knocking on doors process and standing for election and facing the public. A person came out of that process as a number four vote getter. I will not support this motion but I don’t see enough votes to do otherwise,” he continued.


 Ken Milder and Manny Baca were present at last night’s meeting. Both ran for County Council seats in November. Milder came in fourth in the race, while Baca came in fifth.


Though Milder sat quietly throughout the discussion, Baca seized the opportunity to voice his opinion on the process.


“I disagree with Gibson’s plan that we turn this into some sort of process,” he said. “People spend a lot of time and energy and effort and those two people should be considered above anyone else in the community,” he continued.


After the motion was presented and voted on, Councilor Nona Bowman made a motion that those submitting letters of interest for the vacant seat should include their name, address, party, why they wish to serve, and which committees and groups they’ve been active in and what they can bring to the council.


The other councilors seemed to disagree and Bowman’s motion died for lack of a second.