The Purcellville Town Council is inviting residents to apply to fill a vacant seat and hopes to have a replacement selected by Feb. 23.
That was the result of the debate during Tuesday night’s meeting, which included an effort to appoint a former councilman to serve until a special election is held May 3.
Vice Mayor Ben Packard, who is moving out of town, resigned his post Jan. 12.
Since then, council members have heard a lot of interest in filling the seat on an interim basis. Several of the council said it was important to fill the seat before they get into the meat of the budget this spring.
But members disagreed on how to fill the position.
After lengthy discussion, Councilman John Nave made a motion to approve a process that would invite residents to apply for the post, narrow the list in closed session and then interview the four top candidates in public session before making a selection.
“It needs to be fair and transparent for the town to move forward—open it up. It’s the right thing to do,” he said.
But Councilwoman Joan Lehr said she was concerned about the short amount of time left to fill the position before the budget season starts.
“There’s not enough time to go through a whole [interview] process,” she said.
She made a substitute motion, proposing the appointment of former Councilman Jim “Doc” Wiley. She noted the longtime councilman has wide experience of budget work and was prepared to accept an interim appointment to help the town. He would not run for a council seat in May, she said.
While expressing respect for Wiley, Nave continued to press for an interview process.
Lehr agreed that in normal circumstances she would support that broader selection process, but there wasn’t enough time. “We could have seven hours of interviews,” she said, explaining that’s why she thought Wiley’s short appointment made sense.
Mayor Kwasi Fraser, however, called for open discussion and interviews in the public eye.
Only Lehr and Councilman Doug McCollum supported the Wiley appointment. Fraser, Nave and Vice Mayor Patrick McConville opposed it and Councilwoman Karen Jimmerson was absent.
To better address the budget timetable, McConville brokered a solution in which the council agreed to request all applicants to send in an application and a résumé by the close of business next Monday. Lehr requested that in the spirit of fairness, all those who had expressed interest during the past year in serving on the council should also receive the notification.
The council will hold a closed session before its regular meeting Tuesday, Feb. 9, to review and narrow the list of applicants. The final candidates will be interviewed during a public meeting on Feb. 16. The council’s final decision will be announced after another closed session—either after the interviews or the Feb. 23 council work session. The interim council representative could begin work that night.
That plan was approved unanimously.
Candidates must be qualified voters and submit an application, which is available on the town’s website [http://purcellvilleva.gov/forms.aspx?FID=78], along with a letter of interest and a résumé. Applications may be sent to Town Clerk Diana Hays at firstname.lastname@example.org or delivered to the Town Hall at 221 S. Nursery Ave.
In addition to choosing a candidate to serve the two years remaining on Packard’s term, the May 3 ballot will include the mayor’s seat and three council seats.
So far, only Fraser has announced an intension to run for mayor. He would be seeking his second term in the town’s top position. The seats held by Lehr, McConville and Nave also will be on the ballot.
Lehr, the most senior member on the council, said she has not made a decision yet, but both McConville and Nave will run again. They will be joined by Planning Commissioner Nedim Ogelman and Chris Hamilton, a senior at Patrick Henry College. Planning Commissioner Chris Bledsoe is said to be collecting signatures and former EDAC member Melanie Fuller said she is also considering a run.