While last week’s appointment of Hugh Forsythe to the Leesburg Town Council filled its vacancy, it created another in the state.
The council’s decision not to appoint former Town Council member Katie Sheldon Hammler to the interim council seat means that the Virginia Municipal League needs a new president-elect. Hammler was named to the post at the end of last year, and was expected to be appointed president for a one-year term during VML’s annual conference in October. But the position requires an officer to be an elected official. Hammler lost out on her re-election bid for a fourth council term in November, finishing fifth out of a field of seven candidates for the three seats. And although she put her hat in the ring for the interim appointment in hopes of maintaining the VML seat for Leesburg, she was not chosen as one of the five finalists to present to the Town Council at its Jan. 9 organizational meeting. In fact, only Councilman Ron Campbell selected Hammler as one of his top three candidates for consideration.
Now, ballots will be mailed to VML’s membership to fill the vacant officer position, VML Executive Kim Winn said this week. She also hopes to formally recognize Hammler for her years of service to VML at October’s conference.
“Katie was a strong leader who was an active participant in our board. We will miss her voice as we discuss and debate issues that affect localities at the state level,” Winn said.
Gordonsville Mayor Bob Coiner, the current VML president, was the one to nominate Hammler six years ago as chair of the towns section, a position that includes a seat on VML’s Executive Committee.
“I’d already identified her as a rising star in local government,” he said.
Coiner said he enjoyed working closely with Hammler on the executive committee and found her to be an asset to VML.
“Katie was totally well read, a hard worker, asked intelligent questions,” Coiner said. Losing her as president elect, “it’s a loss for VML, and a personal loss to everyone on the executive committee.”
Already a “great ambassador” for Leesburg while serving on the executive committee, the position of VML president could have brought the town even more exposure, Coiner said. Of his own experience, he said many he has served with on VML, as well as representatives he has networked with from localities throughout the nation, have come to visit Gordonsville because of him. The VML president can have access to important people and possibly secure grants for their town or rub elbows with the CEO of a big organization looking to relocate a business, Coiner said. Vacating the position could be a missed opportunity for Leesburg, he opined.
“When you’re a great ambassador for your town, wonderful things happen,” Coiner said. “It’s just a shame people didn’t realize that.”
Since she was not tapped for the interim council appointment, Hammler seems to be hanging up her council shoes, at least for the moment. Reached Tuesday, she said she would not be running in November’s special election to fill the remainder of Mayor Kelly Burk’s council term. She has some time to change her mind, of course. The filing deadline for all candidates for the Nov. 7 election is not until June 13.