Almanac

News - July 24, 2013

Election 2013: Atherton council race is on

by Renee Batti

Atherton voters will choose their new council member after all: The City Council reaffirmed on July 17 an earlier vote to call an election rather than appoint someone to the vacant seat.

The four council members had voted unanimously on July 11 to allow voters to fill the seat left open by Jerry Carlson's July 1 resignation, but only after failing to agree on one of seven residents who applied to serve out the term, which ends in December 2014. The council was facing a critical deadline: If an election were to be called for November, paperwork had to be filed with the county by July 15.

With the option to appoint someone and cancel the election still open, however, the council discussed possibilities at last week's meeting, but ultimately opted to follow the advice first voiced by Councilman Cary Wiest on July 11: Let Atherton residents decide at the ballot box.

Councilman Bill Widmer urged the council to hold open the option to appoint, even as potential candidates for the November election take out papers to run. Because the council could legally appoint someone until Aug. 30 — 60 days after Mr. Carlson's resignation — why not keep options open?

Mr. Wiest and Councilman Jim Dobbie argued that the council should stick with its earlier decision. Calling the uncertainty "agonizing" for potential candidates, Mr. Wiest said that "it seems unfair to any of the applicants" to drag out the matter.

Mr. Widmer and Mayor Elizabeth Lewis discussed the possibility of keeping the option to appoint open until just before the filing period for the November election closes on Aug. 9, then make a firm decision on appointment versus election. But ultimately, Ms. Lewis agreed that it would be best to end the uncertainty for residents who might be considering running in November.

On a 3-1 vote, with Mr. Widmer dissenting, the council stated it would no longer consider appointing a fifth council member and would let the election proceed.

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