Government

Marion City Council taking applications for at-large vacancy

Appointment will fill seat of Paul Draper, who died this month

The 5th Avenue entrance to Marion City Hall in Marion, Iowa on Oct. 14, 2017. (Lynda Waddington/The Gazette)
The 5th Avenue entrance to Marion City Hall in Marion, Iowa on Oct. 14, 2017. (Lynda Waddington/The Gazette)
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MARION — The city of Marion is taking applications to fill a City Council seat made vacant this month by the death of City Council member Paul Draper.

The council unanimously agreed during a work session Tuesday to fill the seat by appointment. The seat must be filled within 60 days of vacancy.

A formal vote to fill the vacancy by appointment will be taken at Thursday’s City Council meeting at City Hall.

“I think it makes sense to do an appointment,” city council member Rene Gadelha said. “It’s a fair opportunity. We usually have a decent pool of candidates.”

The council’s other option would be to hold a special election in March or April. The newly elected official would hold the seat until the end of the term in November 2023. The estimated cost for a special election is $17,500 to $30,000.

“I would not be in favor of going out for a (special) election as long as people are interested, and I believe that people are,” Gadelha said.

Council member Steve Jensen said he also favors an appointment.

“I’m comfortable doing it with an appointment. It would certainly be a valid method we’ve done in the past,” Jensen said.

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Mayor Nick AbouAssaly said if the appointment were for another three years, he would support a special election, but because the new council member would serve only until the next election in November 2021, he favors appointment. AbouAssaly said, without specifying any names, he expects four or five applicants.

Applications for the at-large seat are due in mid-March. The council will review applications March 19 during a regular City Council meeting.

Filling a vacancy through appointment has precedent. Atkins, who represents Marion’s Ward 1 and wasn’t present at the work session, was appointed to fill a vacancy in the ward in October 2018, after another council member stepped down. Atkins was elected last year to the City Council for a full term.

Draper died Feb. 6, three months after being re-elected to his third term on the council. He was 85.

The at-large city council member submitted a letter of resignation before his death that was read Feb. 6 at a City Council meeting.

In the letter, Draper wrote about how proud he was to serve Marion’s residents and his love for the city, but he could not continue council duties because of his health.

AbouAssaly said Draper never let his health “defeat him.”

“It’s hard to find a bigger supporter and a more staunch advocate of Marion,” AbouAssaly told The Gazette after Draper’s death. “He supported making Marion better for future generations.”

Comments: (319) 368-8664; grace.king@thegazette.com

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