The Eau Claire City Council will today consider two potential ways of filling a three-month vacancy for one of its seats.
Councilwoman Laura Benjamin’s resignation on Nov. 26 leaves her at-large seat empty on the council and the next election is April 7.
During today’s 4 p.m. meeting, the council will decide if it will accept applications to fill her spot before the election and how that appointee will be chosen.
On Monday night, City Clerk Carrie Riepl outlined the process the council has used in the past for appointing members, which involves accepting applications, asking candidates to speak during a Monday night meeting and then voting to select one the following day.
Councilwoman Catherine Emmanuelle has proposed a slightly different process, citing the city’s culture of engagement, transparency and inclusion.
In addition to the standard practice of advertising the vacancy on the city’s website and social media, Leader-Telegram and Volume One, Emmanuelle’s proposal would also post the council opening through the Hmong Mutual Assistance Association and a Spanish-language publication in the Chippewa Valley.
And her proposal would add a “community meet and greet” that candidates would be encouraged to attend in addition to interviews with the council.
Riepl’s proposed process would give candidates until Jan. 7 to submit their applications while Emmanuelle’s proposal has a Dec. 26 deadline.
Emmanuelle’s proposed timeline would get the candidate seated on Jan. 13 whereas Riepl’s plan is for the appointee to start serving on Jan. 27.
To get the appointee seated sooner, Emmanuelle’s proposal does call for a special meeting between Dec. 30 and Jan. 3 be added to the council’s schedule.
But there is also a third option the council could pick — leaving the seat vacant until voters choose a new member in the April 7 election.
This was the route the council took when it last had a vacancy following the June 2018 resignation of President Kerry Kincaid. By not appointing a new member then, there was an empty seat on the council for 10 months and during that time Councilman Andrew Werthmann served as acting council president.
On April 7, there will be an election for the remaining two years left on Benjamin’s unexpired term. Also on that ballot will be a full three-year term for council president, which is currently held by incumbent Terry Weld.