In a rather interesting exercise that at times left certain council members speechless, the six current members of the Leesburg Town Council failed to find four necessary votes to appoint a new mayor to fill out the remainder of longtime mayor Kristen Umstattd’s term.
At Tuesday night’s council meeting, six motions were made regarding the appointment of a new mayor. The only one that passed postponed the vote another two weeks, with the appointment expected to be discussed again at the council’s Jan. 25 work session, with another vote eyed for the Jan. 26 meeting.
A majority of the elected body has been adamant that the best person to be interim mayor is a current council member. Despite that, motions to appoint council members David Butler, Marty Martinez, Katie Hammler and Kelly Burk all failed. Martinez’s initial motion to direct town staff to advertise for resumes from town residents interested in filling the position also failed.
Burk, who as vice mayor is serving as acting mayor until an appointment is made, agreed that the best person to fill the interim seat may be found in the greater Leesburg community.
“As council members we have experience running meetings and understanding items. I think it is very elitist of us to assume no one from the public is qualified to do the same,” she said.
Burk also added that she felt that appointing someone who has vocalized their intention to run for a seat on the council or for mayor “creates an artificial incumbency” for that person.
After Martinez’s motion to advertise for the vacancy, Butler made a motion to nominate Burk for the mayor’s seat, which clearly caught the vice mayor off guard. Burk announced in late December that she will seek the town’s top elected post in November’s general election but had said she did not want to be considered for the interim appointment.
“I think it’s better for someone on the council to take the mayor’s position rather than pick someone from outside. You happen to be to my left so I move to nominate you if you accept,” Butler said to Burk.
After some obvious hesitation, Burk said that she would accept the mayor’s seat if there were the votes to appoint her. Also nominated, Martinez said he would not accept the appointment. The motion to appoint him, like all the others, failed.
Burk, Martinez and Councilwoman Suzanne Fox’s council terms expire Dec. 31, 2018, meaning that if any of the three of them are appointed to the mayor’s seat they will lose the remaining two years of their term. Butler, Hammler and Councilman Tom Dunn’s terms expire at the end of this year, with their seats and the mayor’s seat up for re-election in November. While Leesburg council members’ terms are four years, the mayor’s post is elected every two years. The mayoral office was vacated when Umstattd took office as the Leesburg District representative on the Board of Supervisors.