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Nine Interested in Farms Council Seat Vacancy

Council wrestles with appointment or special election for vacant seat.

Nine Grosse Pointe Farms residents have submitted letters of interest to the City Council for the vacant seat now open due to the passing of Mayor Pro Tem Joseph Leonard.

Leonard passed away Aug. 19 following a lengthy battle with cancer. He had served as a city councilman after retiring from Grosse Pointe Farms as the Public Service Director in 2003. He was re-elected in November and was chosen to serve as the Mayor Pro Tem by his fellow council members.

During a work session Monday, the council discussed how to proceed with the selection of a new council member from the group of interested residents that had submitted letters and/or resumes by the council's published deadline of Oct. 1.

Interested Parties

The council's published announcement of the council vacancy called for interested residents to submit a letter of interest and to declare their intentions about running in future elections if appointed to the seat. 

Nine individuals responded to the vacancy announcement, among them a former Grosse Pointe Public Schools school board president John Steininger and former Councilman Leonard's daughter, Patricia M. Leonard.

Others expressing an interest in the council seat are:

  • James K. Fisher
  • Doug Jones
  • Mark D. Steiner
  • Sean P. Cotton
  • Lisa Mower Gandelot
  • Joe Ricci
  • Elizabeth Mary Vogel

Mayor James Farquhar spoke highly of the quality of the applicants and their collective experience.

Appoint or Elect?

The council wrestled with primarily two options open to them--appoint someone to the seat or hold a special election to allow voters to choose the new council member.

Appointment Option

The timeline for the council to appoint a new member is tight.  The appointment must come within 60 days of the vacancy of the seat, which is a few days after the council's next regular meeting on October 15.

If the council decides to appoint someone to the seat, that person would serve until November 2013 when there would be an election to determine who would fill the rest of Leonard's term that expires in November 2015.  

That would make four members of the council, plus the mayor, up for election at the same time.  Typically the rotation is four and three seats most election years. 

In previous discussions, Councilman Louis Theros expressed his concern that he would prefer that the interested parties declare that they are not going to seek election in 2013. Other council members also share Theros' view that an appointed individual should be limited to the appointment period and not seek the seat beyond the next election.

Special Election Option

On the other hand, if the council opts to hold a special city election to allow voters to choose, which would happen in February 2013, that person would be able to serve the remainder of the term until November 2015.

Of concern to many council members is the hefty price tag of a special election--an estimated $10,000, said City Manager Shane Reeside.

City Attorney William Burgess explained that if the council chose to hold a special election, the city would not be limited to the nine people who had submitted by the Oct. 1 deadline, but would essentially start with "a clean slate" by re-opening the opportunity for residents to run for election.

Residents could seek nomination to the special election ballot with a required number of signatures or by paying a $100 filing fee.

Councilman Peter Waldmeir expressed his concern that if the council decides to go forward with a special election that many of the applicants have stated they are only interested in the seat until the next regular election by voters.  

City Manager Shane Reeside said he thought at least two of the nine would run in a special election.

To Be Determined

Ultimately, the council decided to have Reeside contact all nine applicants to ask if they would commit to not running in the November 2013 election if appointed and also if they would be willing to run in a special election in February 2013.  

The council will take action on the vacancy at their regular meeting on October 15.

Ann October 03, 2012 at 10:59 AM
What does his daughter know about the job?? They want to still keep it in the family I guess. I say let Liz Vogel get the job, after the crap Leonard did to her!! Good luck Liz!!
Diane Smith October 03, 2012 at 01:52 PM
I would vote for Liz Vogel!
Mark October 03, 2012 at 02:19 PM
I have no personal knowledge of what his daughter might know about the job do you? You could however logically assume she could know a lot about the job and potentially more than the other candidates. Throughout the world and history families pass down trade knowledge to the next generation. Maybe they discussed council workings every night and on weekends.
Julie Lattimore October 03, 2012 at 08:13 PM
I hope all these people get their names on the ballot in 2013, we need new blood on that council. Let me understand this... Our City Council has outlawed the person they appoint from ever holding a permanent seat? Sounds to me like they are trying to save their own necks and seats on that council, come the next election. It is outrageous! Anyone one should be allowed on that ballot, whether they fill in for a short time or not! Lets say the appointee does a superior job, they will not be allowed to continue, because the current elected officials don't want the competition on the ballot. Awful!
Katie October 04, 2012 at 02:23 PM
Julie, that's what Marty West agreed to the first time he filled a vacant seat, only to come back and fill another vacant seat and then stay on.....seems like the rules change depending upon who it is?
Elizabeth M. Vogel October 04, 2012 at 08:19 PM
If the decision is made on October 15th to hold a special election, then I will run. I do not know the other candidates personally, but from what Council has said they are all more than qualified. So far, only a handful of the candidates that wished to be appointed stated that they would run in a special election. I do not know who is or is not interested in an election. As far as appointee guidelines, they seem to change everytime there is a vacancy, which is troubling to me. Someone who is appointed should not have to make a pledge or promise not to run in the future. First of all, any such statement is not legally binding, according to our own city attorney. I asked the question myself at the working session. Second, I do not think it serves the best interests of the community to vet an appointee, show them the ropes, put them on committees, then slam the door at the next election cycle. I do respect and understand why Council is concerned over this vacancy and exploring all of the various options. Whatever the decision, I know it is being made with a great deal of thought. Thank you for those who continue to support me and my efforts, it is very encouraging. If anyone has any questions for me, I can be reached at 313-516-7970 or elizabeth.m.vogel@gmail.com, I'll respond to calls/emails before or after my regular business hours. Liz
Katie October 11, 2012 at 06:13 PM
Julie Lattimore, there will apparently be 3-4 seats up in November 2013. With all due respect to the nine interested - and Lisa Gandelot has already had her turn, I think you would be good on the council and for the Farms - I hope you would consider it.

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