Calling one new council member: Town seeks new appointment

The Town of Paradise Valley Town Council is one member short after Maria Syms resigned at the end of December. (photo by Melissa Fittro)

Paradise Valley Town Council is looking to fill one more seat at its local dais to make a complete seven-member team.

At a Jan. 26 study session at Town Hall, 6401 E. Lincoln Drive, town officials brainstormed their next procedural steps to fill the open spot.

The vacancy comes after Councilwoman Maria Syms resigned on Dec. 30, 2016, following a successful run to the Arizona Legislature.

The town council, comprised of elected volunteers, are responsible for establishing goals and adopting public policy to meet the town’s needs.

Last November, an election was held where council member Mark Stanton was elected to his second term, and members Julie Pace and Scott Moore were elected to their first terms. Town council members serve staggered four-year terms.

The council seeks to fill the two-year position as quickly as possible, and are aiming to have a final candidate by the end of February.

The town council is requesting interested applicants fill out an online application by Feb. 8.

Council members will each choose up to two names to be put on a short-list by noon Feb. 14, and Town Clerk Duncan Miller is to notify the top candidates by 5 p.m. that day. An interview process will begin Feb. 23.

While filling a vacancy on the council is something that has happened several times in past years, there is not a specific set of procedures to follow.

“There is no indication in the state statutes or the town code as to how soon a vacancy in the council must be filled, thus it would seem to be at the discretion of the council as to how soon it would fill the vacancy,” states a memo penned by Town Attorney Andrew Miller.

Mayor Michael Collins welcomed suggestions from the council.

“The process is pretty wide open,” he said at the Jan. 26 meeting.

The six current members expressed their eagerness to fill the position as soon as possible.

“I”m eager, I’m also open minded about how this happens,” said Vice Mayor Jerry Bien-Willner. “I see logic in having a public process.”

The town council provided different suggestions ranging from submitting a resume and going through an application process, to providing written responses to questions, or having a public hearing.

Preferred qualifications include applicants who have past experience in town service and/or elected official experience.

“The type of candidate that I’d imagine, recognizing that ordinarily the position is elected, and in order to have a degree of self-selection so it’s not like a committee where you’re getting a really broad swath of people filling in elected shoes, I would say that we put out there, at least my preference would be, it would look more favorably as applicants that have prior elected official experience,” said Mr. Bien-Willner.

Having prior service volunteering for the town would be favorable when it comes to learning about open meeting laws, and other laws and rules new members must learn, said Councilman Paul Dembow.

“I would have a preference for people who have served the town or at least somewhat up to speed, like a great candidate for a board or commission, who at least knew where all the bodies were buried,” said Mr. Dembow. “That certainly wouldn’t be bad, because we’re not going to have the time to do the training that everybody who was running or have all the stuff to look at.”

Options exercised to fill prior vacancies include:

  • Advertising for qualified residents and have council review and make a recommendation;
  • Go into executive session to complete the interview process with a formal appointment to occur at an open meeting;
  • Simply filling by appointing a “natural” candidate, such as someone who lost a recent election or has served the Town in a distinguished manner in the past;
  • Appointing someone the council thinks would be a good addition without going through any selection process;
  • Have no before-selection process and have council members make multiple nominations of qualified residents and use a ballot of the council to decide.

The application packet may be downloaded from the Town’s website, www.paradisevalleyaz.gov, or hard copies are available at the Town Clerk’s Office at Town Hall.

News Services Editor Melissa Fittro can be reached by e-mail at mfittro@newszap.com or follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MelissaFittro

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