Council seat to remain vacant until after Nov. election
Sunday, January 23, 2022
Dalondo Moultrie The Seguin Gazette
Seguin City Council appears headed toward operating short-handed for months following one council member’s resignation and the others in talks to leave the vacant seat open until the next uniform election day.
District 7 Councilwoman Penny Follis resigned in December after moving into a home outside city limits and the city charter requires council members to live in the city, City Attorney Andy Quittner said. The charter also precludes council from appointing a replacement.
Council needs to call a special election to fill the seat but hasn’t the ability to run its own election and it’s likely too late to get the measure on the upcoming primary ballot, Quittner said.
“The direction I’ve gotten so far is I think they’re just going to wait until that term would’ve expired in November when it was going to be on the ballot anyway,” he said. “The problem is we don’t do our own elections. We have no ability to do elections. We have to contract with the county and the county’s busy with primaries.”
In a recent regular meeting, Quittner presented information on procedures Council has to follow regarding Follis’ resignation. To hold a special election, city staff would need to ask Guadalupe County leaders to run the election and the county is too embroiled in running the upcoming primary to schedule the city’s special election, Quittner said, adding that he had spoken with no one from the county to confirm his assumption.
The Guadalupe County elections office is prepared to run an election in May for any local political subdivision that needs one, Elections Administrator Lisa Hayes said.
“As an elections administrator for Guadalupe County, we always accept contracts for uniform election dates,” she said. “That would be May 7, Nov. 8, for these election dates that are required by law to have elections held on them.”
She is required to contract to do elections for entities within the county that wish to contract, Hayes said. Her office is accepting contracts and has been in contact with several local jurisdictions for the May date, she said.
However, there’s more to Seguin’s issues than simply going forward with contracting for a May election, Mayor Donna Dodgen said.
City Council by consensus decided to leave Follis’ vacated seat open for additional reasons, the mayor said. Redistricting plays a major factor in the decision against holding a special election, Dodgen said.
The city of Seguin recently hired an attorney to help with redistricting, a process that is expected to last well into May and possibly June.
“That could mean that if we do that and have a special election, (the winner) may be in that seat two or three months or maybe four months and they may not live in that district (after redistricting) and may not be able to run again,” Dodgen said.
Also, cost is a deterrent to holding a special election, she said. On top of it all, there is a timing issue involved that includes fairness to candidates interested in filling the seat, Dodgen said.
“The other thing is that if they even sat there for two or three months, via our charter, that’s considered a full term,” she said. “So, even if they were eligible by where they live, they would only be eligible for one more term.”
Citizens by city charter are limited to only two terms on Seguin City Council.
With the seat remaining open, some District 7 residents might have concerns about being represented during the upcoming redistricting process. Council appointed a District 7 resident to the citizen committee to speak for the district.
And, District 7 residents needn’t worry about being represented on the council as a whole, Dodgen said. She and past-Mayor Don Keil both live in the district and are able to speak for their neighbors, the current mayor said.
Besides, Seguin City Council governs as a unit on behalf of all, not the few, Dodgen said.
“Officially, I think our council does extremely well by representing the whole city,” she said. “I do not think that any of the council members — even though there are single-member districts — think in a silo. They represent the district but overall we represent the city in total. … I don’t want any citizen to ever feel they can’t call and contact any of us to tell us their thoughts.”
Category: news, City Council, City of Seguin