Mount Sterling’s mayor is weighing his options on selecting a person to fill his vacant council seat, as it could keep him from returning to his former term on council.
Village Law Director Mark Pitstick said during Monday’s meeting because of the circumstances and the village’s population, Anderson has discretion to fill the seat and can choose not to in order to resume his own term on council after a new mayor is elected.
The topic was brought up by resident Gerald Franklin Spradlin.
The now-vacant seat was originally Anderson’s when he served as president pro-tem of council. When former mayor Charlie Neff resigned in February 2016, Anderson ascended to the position, per Ohio law.
If a mayor leaves office, an election for a replacement is held on an odd numbered year. Until the election, the president pro-tem of council serves as mayor.
He has two options:
• If Anderson doesn’t fill the seat and doesn’t run for mayor, he may resume the rest of his term when the new mayor takes over.
If he doesn’t fill the seat, runs for mayor and wins, council would have discretion in filling the seat until 30 days after Anderson would take office.
• If Anderson fills the seat — and does not run for mayor or loses a mayoral election — Anderson could not automatically resume his term on council. He would need to be chosen by the rest of council when a new mayor is elected for the rest of Neff’s term in November.
Anderson’s council seat has two years left on the term, as does the current mayor’s seat. He has not mentioned any interest in running for mayor.
There has previously been confusion regarding who had authority to fill the seat. It was initially thought to be council’s decision and has been discussed during several recent council meetings.
Pitstick, who didn’t interject during any of those meetings, said council had access to the laws discussing vacancies. He described the law as “very clear and specific.”
“What I’d like to bring to everyone’s attention is that [the law] is in your rules of council, and it was provided in 2016, which was there for your convenience in the future when you have unusual circumstances, which we’ve had over the last year,” he said.
Council initially discussed filling the seat on Feb. 13, 2016. According to the minutes, council member Mary Lou Stiverson-Ratliff said the seat can stay empty as council works well with the current membership.
Council member Diane Spradlin advocated filling it as “one more person can be an ear into the community.” She wanted council to go through a review process and go through resumes.
She brought the issue up again last month after a community member asked about the seat. Spradlin motioned for council to look into how the seat could be filled, which the rest of council voted in support of. Then Pitstick reviewed the law for presentation at Monday’s meeting.
Anderson said Monday he was still considering his options and would not say if he would or would not fill the seat.
“The subject has been addressed and what was the answer given? It’s still up to me if I want to fill it. And I haven’t made an answer or a decision,” he said. “That remains.”
Stiverson-Ratliff is still ambivalent on filling the seat.
“I have no feeling regarding the vacant seat,” she said. “It has always been any mayor’s choice that ends up in this position. I believe state law allows a municipality to have as few as 5 seated members based on a small population.”
Council Member David Timmons said he was in favor of seeing it filled.
“I have to leave it up to the mayor as it’s in his hands now,” he said. “I think that it should be filled, in my own opinion.
In other business from Monday’s meeting:
• Village Administrator John Martin said repairs on the wastewater treatment plant are moving along. New heaters were installed to replace the broken ones a few weeks ago.
“They’re working quite well and I don’t see the humidity issue that we had with the old ones,” he said.
The ladders and platforms over the waste water tanks should be installed soon, as well.
In December, Martin found the plant had a plethora of issues and design flaws that were damaging equipment and slowing solid waste disposal, partially stemming from moisture build up caused by the broken heater and a lack of ventilation.
• Martin reported progress on the new water supply plant is continuing with the structure of the building itself beginning to take shape. Completion is still expected to be June 23.
He also wanted council aware it wouldn’t be producing drinking water immediately as village employees need to train on how to use it and they need to figure out the water balancing for safe drinking water under EPA standards.
• As state routes run through the village, Martin said speed limits can only be lowered on High Street, among others, if the village declares an area a business district. He is preparing an accurate map so the village can figure out how to zone the district properly.
Maximilian Kwiatkowski can be reached at 740-852-1616, ext. 1617 or on Twitter @MSFKwiat.