Council could select new member tonight

Jan. 22, 2013 @ 05:01 PM

The Town Council is expected to choose a resident tonight to replace Penny Rich, who resigned her council seat last month to join the Orange County Board of Commissioners.
Eleven residents have applied to complete the term, which expires in December.
The applicants are Gary Kahn, Maria Palmer, Loren D. Hintz, Paul Neebe, Aaron Shah, Carl Schuler, Jennifer Marsh, Bjorn Pedersen, Amy Ryan, David Jackson and former councilwoman Sally Greene, who in 2011 did not seek re-election to the seat she first won in 2003.
The seat will be up for grabs again in the Nov. 5 municipal election, along with the mayor’s seat held by Mark Kleinschmidt and three council seats held by Laurin Easthom, Ed Harrison and Gene Pease.
Council members reached Tuesday said they had not made up their minds, and noted that numerous citizens had contacted them to give an opinion about who should fill the spot.
“I don’t want to make a final decision until I receive input from all citizens who I’m sure will continue to weigh in until the final hour,” said Councilman Lee Storrow.
Kleinschmidt said all of the applicants did a great job presenting to council and the community last week, so selecting one will be difficult.
“I don’t know where the other council members are on this,” Kleinschmidt said. “We’ll just have to see what happens.”
And Easthom said she likes the fact that she that several applicants have expressed interest in running for the seat in the fall.
“Whoever doesn’t get picked will certainly have the option in six months to file for election,” Easthom said. 
So far, much of the discussion about filling the seat has centered on whether to choose a newcomer or someone with council experience.
Greene is the only applicant to have previously served on the council, although many of the other 10 applicants have extensive experience serving on town boards and commissions.
But Greene told the council last week that she thought the town needs someone with experience to fill the vacancy due to the tough budget issues and other complex matters coming before the council this year. 
“You do need all hands on deck to get you through this budget and the next election cycle when the voters will have their say,” Greene said.
But other candidates, namely Palmer, told the council that previous council experience should not be a requisite to fill the vacancy.
“Should previous experience on the Town Council be the most important consideration in your choice?” Palmer asked. “Making it so can exclude important new voices. Some of you have proven that new faces bring new energy and new ideas.”
Easthom noted that the person chosen will only serve a short time. She said it is important to her that the person is knowledgeable about council business and can go to work right away.
“Those are important things that I’m thinking about,” Easthom said. “We just need somebody who is able to get to work.”
If the council does select an applicant to fill the vacancy tonight, the person chosen would be sworn in at the council’s Jan. 28 meeting.