Government

North Liberty council undecided on how to fill upcoming vacancy

Members don't land on a decision Tuesday

Jim Sayre, associate director of parking and transporation at the University of Iowa
Jim Sayre, associate director of parking and transporation at the University of Iowa

NORTH LIBERTY — Council members have yet to decide how to fill a soon-to-be-vacant seat.

During the regular meeting Tuesday night, North Liberty City Council members discussed if it should appoint a new council member or hold a special election to fill Jim Sayre’s seat but didn’t come to a conclusion. Sayre will resign Feb. 1 to move to Arizona for a new job.

The term lasts through the end of the year.

Because of a winter storm Tuesday, Sayre, Chris Hoffman and Jennifer Goings were the only council members to attend the meeting. Hoffman expressed interest in appointing, citing saving time and money, while Goings wanted residents to choose their own leader through a special election.

A special election would likely cost between $2,000 and $3,000, according to council documents.

“I’m comfortable with the decisions we’ll make as a body ...,” Hoffman said. “We’ve all been elected to make decisions on behalf of the city such as the budget, such as right of way forgiveness and things of that nature, so I don’t consider this to be that much different from that.”

If someone is appointed to fill the seat, that person would serve through November’s city election. If a special election is held, the elected council member would serve through December.

“We were not elected to choose the representative for the community. And my perspective is that as a councilor I want somebody having to go out and make the case to the community that ‘I’m the best person for this job.’ Not fill out a paper form application and come make a five-minute presentation in front of us,” Goings said.

If the council chooses to appoint a new member, residents can file a petition with 75 signatures of eligible electors to force a special election.

“Given the timing, I’m a little suspect because it’s my vacancy, but I would completely support an appointment. I would support an appointment until a special election was called if one was going to be called by the public,” Sayre said. “Because there’s somebody out there that’s going to come to you and say ‘We should have a special election.’”

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That was the scenario during North Liberty’s last elected official vacancy, when then-mayor Amy Nielsen was elected to the state House of Representatives. Council member Terry Donahue was chosen as the city’s mayor and resident Sarah Madsen was elected to a council seat in April 2017.

The North Liberty City Council typically meets at 6:30 p.m. on the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month in its chambers at 1 Quail Creek Circle. Whoever is elected or appointed will join Hoffman, Goings, Annie Pollock and Sarah Madsen on the council.

Council members earn a salary of $50 per council meeting attended.

l Comments: (319) 339-3172; maddy.arnold@thegazette.com

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