Mayor will force vote on council candidates

Watertown City Hall. Sydney Schaefer/Watertown Daily Times

WATERTOWN — With a controversy surrounding the process, City Councilman Ryan Henry-Wilkinson is starting to believe it’s best to leave a council seat vacant until after the November election.

In recent days, the process of selecting a candidate to fill the vacant seat left by Councilman Jesse C.P. Roshia has come under fire.

Councilman Henry-Wilkinson is predicting a stalemate, in which the mayor and Councilwoman Sarah V. Compo want to select one candidate and he and Councilwoman Lisa A. Ruggiero will support another.

“Intellectually, I’m not so sure we’ll be able to agree on a candidate,” Councilman Henry-Wilkinson said.

Unhappy with the way the process has been handled, he said he would leave the seat vacant and let voters decide who would be on council.

Mayor Jeffrey M. Smith has scheduled a meeting for 9:30 a.m. Saturday to interview the last two remaining candidates, Amy Horton and Benjamin Shoen, in the running for the vacant seat. Ms. Horton is an account executive with ABC-50 and Mr. Shoen owns a contracting business.

Earlier this week, a third candidate, Thomas J. Penn, took his name out of the running, citing the time wasn’t right for him.

Councilman Henry-Wilkinson and Councilwoman Ruggiero have requested other candidates be interviewed after their top two picks, former council candidate Patrick Hickey and Katharine E. Kimball, were not chosen for an interview.

Both are registered Democrats, Councilwoman Ruggiero said. The mayor is a Republican.

To avoid a 2-2 vote that would result in no appointment, Mayor Smith maintains that candidates need to have a consensus of council before they should be interviewed. He would only add interviews with other candidates if they could receive the support from three council members.

The way he understands the city charter, the council only needs to make sure a vacant seat is filled before the next council is seated at the end of December, Councilman Henry-Wilkinson said. He plans to talk with City Attorney Robert J. Slye about inquiring if council can leave a seat vacant.

The two remaining candidates will be interviewed Saturday in person at City Hall by Mayor Smith and three council members.

At the beginning of the process, 11 people expressed interest in the seat.

Mr. Roshia, a political ally of the mayor, resigned on Jan. 31, citing a new job.

The other people who had expressed interest but didn’t get interviews are Donnie Lee Barrigar, Calvin Stanley, Jason Traynor, Douglas R. Rice, Glenn Curry and Lance Hale.

The new council member would have to run for election in November. If the appointee wins in November, they will serve the remainder of Councilman Roshia’s term.

Candidates can start getting signatures on petitions March 2. They must obtain 178 signatures in the nonpartisan council race.

Councilmembers Ruggiero and Henry-Wilkinson also are up for four-year terms.

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(1) comment

rdsouth

This is always a possibility. Maybe the city council could change the rules to allow some elected fifth party official to function as tie breaker ex officio. City court judge? Or agree in advance to abide by such a decision informally at least in this case.

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