|Alexandria Mayor Andy Schabell said the discussion on how to fill the vacancy left by Dave Hart was a painful and difficult one.|
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by Robin Gee, city council beat editor
The April 1 Alexandria City Council meeting started with a moment of silence to remember council member Dave Hart who passed away suddenly last month. A photo of Hart taken at the last council meeting just a few weeks ago, was placed at his seat on the council table.
In the new business section of the meeting, Mayor Andy Schabell opened a discussion of finding a replacement to fill the empty council position.
"We have to talk about finding a replacement for Dave Hart," he said. "I don’t like doing this. It is too quick. But what happens is, when there is a vacancy on council, we have 30 days to fill a position. If it's not filled it goes to the governor’s office, so we have no choice in this, we have to move forward."
Schabell went on to discuss Hart’s career in the city and to express how much he will be missed. He noted that the council member was wearing his bocce ball shirt in the photo placed at his seat. He said it was an example of all the ways beyond Hart’s role in city service that he was involved in the fabric of Alexandria.
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The mayor noted that, while most appointments are made by the mayor, the job of replacing a council member mid-term is solely that of the council itself.
With help from city attorney Mike Duncan, council discussed their options on how to proceed with filling the position within a short time frame. Duncan warned that the governor has been proactive in filling vacancies and so the council must fill the position within the 30-day limit if they want to have control of the position.
Anyone appointed to the position, either by the council or the governor, would have to run for their seat in the next election.
Council members discussed the procedures used in the past to replace members who left their positions (usually due to moving out of the city). Schabell noted that with those positions, council had some time to prepare.
Council discussed and decided the following steps:
- Council would break into Executive Session at the end of the meeting to discuss the personnel matter, in particular to discuss those who have already expressed interest in the position.
- As soon as possible, the city clerk would post a call for applications for the vacant Alexandria City Council position on the city’s website, Facebook page and other social media outlets.
- Applications would be accepted by noon on Friday, April 9.
- A special council meeting will be called for 7 p.m. on Tuesday, April 13. Members would go into Executive Session and would conduct interviews with those who have applied. For social distancing, candidates might be asked to wait in their cars and come in one by one for the interviews.
- After coming out of Executive Session, council would either vote or they would adjourn to return to vote at the regular council meeting on Thursday, April 15.
At the end of the meeting, before going into their first Executive Session on the matter, each council person spoke about Hart and what he meant to them personally and to the city.
Schabell said, "Everything about this is terrible, but we are doing the best we can with it. We will fill his spot, but he will never be replaced."