Filling city commission seat should be a public process

By John Peters

January 16, 2014

Tonight Mount Airy commissioners will take on the task of filling the seat left vacant with the recent death of Scott Graham.

While those who knew and worked closely with Graham might still be reeling from his loss, the board must move forward with the business of governing, and part of that business is filling the seat. Although the issue is not on the formal agenda, several commissioners this week said they plan to discuss the matter at tonight’s meeting, though none said they had any definitive ideas on how the might fill the seat.

In recent years the city commission has had two vacancies to fill. The first was in 2008 when Tom Bagnal stepped down from the board and the second was when then-commissioner Deborah Cochran won the mayoral post in 2009, leaving her board seat vacant.

In that most recent incident, the board appointed Teresa Lewis to the unexpired term. That was an easy choice, given that she had recently won the city-wide primary in the mayor’s race before losing a close election to Cochran for the spot.

After the 2008 vacancy there had been much discussion on how to fill the seat, including some talk of meeting with potential candidates and hashing out much of the process behind closed doors. Thankfully the board opted to go public with the process, accepting letters of application from city residents interested in the post, then meeting with each candidate, again, in public.

This would seem to be a good blueprint to follow — to open the seat up for anyone who might be interested, then have the board members choose.

There are a number of wonderfully talented, intelligent, hard-working individuals in the city who could serve the city well in this post. We hope the commissioners will give them all a chance to make their case, and that the process is done in the public eye.