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Council plans to appoint Mayor Salm’s replacement

Citizens have chance to call for special election until July 8

By Lori Lindner
North Liberty Leader

NORTH LIBERTY– The North Liberty City Council has decided to appoint a mayor to replace the late Tom Salm.
By unanimous vote Tuesday, June 10, the council’s action sets the stage for nominations and a vote for approval to fill the vacancy at its next meeting June 24.
City Attorney Scott Peterson informed the council of the options available for filling the position. Current Iowa code requires the council to fill the vacancy within 40 days of Salm’s death (May 18) either by appointment or special election. Mayor Pro Tempore Gerry Kuhl said he did not favor holding an election because of costs to citizens, and because mayoral candidates in previous elections have been scarce. Salm ran unopposed for the seat in 2009 and 2013.
“People have been asking about the process (to replace Salm), and ask if there is going to be a special election,” Kuhl said in an interview last week. “My answer is that citizens have the right to call for an election. People always have the right to trump council, and that’s okay, because it’s the citizens’ choice.”
However, Kuhl noted, there is a cost to consider.
“I ask them to keep in mind that the estimated costs for a special election is around $6,000,” Kuhl added, “and their response is usually that we have better ways to spend the money, and we have a good council who will make a good decision.”
Kuhl said he felt confident any one of the sitting council members would be able to step into the mayor’s position, and that Salm left the city in good shape.
“Anywhere I go, the comments I hear are, ‘oh, you’re the man that took over for the mayor, and we think everybody is doing fine.’ That to me is reassuring,” said Kuhl.
Kuhl said Salm was adamant that the council and city administration set goals and objectives for two years in advance.
“The goals and capital improvements plan are the blueprints for what we have followed, and look what we’ve got: a city under development, with Centennial Park, upgrades to our wastewater plant and a new water facility. We have ordinances and policies that are well thought out. There is no need to change things that are in place,” Kuhl said.
Even though the council has chosen to appoint a replacement on June 24, citizens have another 14 days after that to file a petition calling for a special election. To be successful, the petition would need 26 valid signatures, or 15 percentage of the number of voters in the last municipal election (177). The last day for a citizens’ petition to be filed with the city clerk will be July 8.
If a valid petition is received by deadline, the earliest possible date to hold a special election would be July 29.
If no petition is received, the council’s appointment will take effect immediately. If the council chooses to appoint one of its own, that person’s seat becomes vacant on the council, and the process to fill that vacancy is the same as replacing the mayor, but with different deadline dates.
If replaced by special election, the mayor’s term expires in December 2017. If replaced by appointment, the term lasts until the next regular city election of November 2015.
Kuhl said it is important for the council to have consensus moving forward for the benefit of the citizens of North Liberty.
“We, as a city council, work as a team. In this whole process, it is important for us to continue to work with a team effort on behalf of the city,” Kuhl said.