The Town of Leesburg has a new mayor following a Monday night special meeting.
Councilman David Butler will slide down the Town Council dais a few seats, as he won the four votes to be appointed mayor. He was supported by council members Tom Dunn, Katie Hammler and Suzanne Fox.
The vote followed a debate that lasted almost a month over who would be best to fill the seat formerly occupied by Kristen Umstattd, who won election as the Leesburg District representative for the county Board of Supervisors in November. Her resignation was effective Dec. 31, 2015, and Vice Mayor Kelly Burk has served as acting town mayor since then.
The matter of appointing a mayor to fill the remainder of Umstattd’s term, which will expire on Dec. 31, was first discussed at the council’s Jan. 11 work session. While it seemed to be the will of the majority of the council at that work session was that a sitting council member be appointed to the mayor’s seat, the following night no council member nominated for appointment received the necessary four votes. Another try at a vote was anticipated for two weeks later, but the council’s second set of January meetings was cancelled because of the winter storm.
Butler and Fox called for a special meeting. It was initially scheduled for last Wednesday but was rescheduled to allow all six council members to be present.
Tonight’s meeting began much the way the Jan. 11 meeting ended. Several motions were put forward that deadlocked and did not receive the four votes necessary to make the appointment. Burk introduced an initial motion to solicit residents interested in being considered for the mayor’s post. That motion failed 3-3, with Hammler, Fox and Dunn opposed. Hammler then made a motion to appoint former Town Council member Terry Titus, who served as council member for several terms in the 1970s, as well as for a four-month interim appointment in 2012. That motion also deadlocked, with Fox, Butler and Dunn opposed.
Hammler made the motion to appoint Butler. She noted that she believed Butler would make an “effective” mayor, having served on the Town Council for almost eight years and was previously vice mayor. She noted her preference to have a sitting member of the council appointed as mayor, and said she was not able to find four votes to support herself, Councilman Marty Martinez or Burk, all of whom have also been on the council for an extended time and were prior vice mayors.
Following the vote to appoint Butler, the meeting recessed in anticipation of Clerk of the Circuit Court Gary Clemens’ arrival to formally swear in Butler as the town’s new mayor. Butler was sworn in and then the six-member council found what has been eluding them for a month—a unanimous vote.
The council agreed unanimously to advertise for residents interested in serving the remainder of Butler’s council term to apply.
The motion, made by Hammler, will allow the town to advertise for the open council seat for five business days. Hammler asked that town staff coordinate with council members to find a time to hold an additional special meeting next week to make that appointment. The member of the public selected for Butler’s former council seat will serve until Dec. 31. A special election is not needed to fill that seat, as Butler’s council term will be up for election in November’s general elections.