Mt. Jackson council to address mayor’s seat

By Alex Bridges

Mt. Jackson Town Council will meet Tuesday to decide how to fill the mayor’s seat until the next election.

Longtime Mayor Joseph A. “Joe” Williams died July 16 at Winchester Medical Center after a brief illness. Williams, 81, was serving in the last year of his fourth term as mayor. His term was set to expire June 30, 2014.

The timing of Williams’ death left council members with the responsibility of finding a replacement until the general election in May.

Mt. Jackson officials have called a special meeting for 7 p.m. Tuesday at Town Hall to discuss the matter. Town Attorney Douglas Arthur said Friday he continues to gather information on the issue and plans to give a report to council at the meeting. Council may take action to fill the position at that point.

Vice Mayor Kay P. Whetzel took over the duties of mayor when Williams went into the hospital. The town charter calls for the vice mayor to assume the role in the mayor’s absence. Whetzel’s move to the mayor’s position leaves a vacancy on council.

Questions remain over how council fills the mayor’s position in the interim and what process the town should use to allow voters to elect someone to the seat, Arthur explained.

Arthur said he has researched the issue, looking at the town charter and inquiring with the State Board of Elections, to determine council’s possible next step. Arthur said he didn’t want to go into much detail about what he may recommend because he had not yet given his report to council.

Town Manager Charlie Moore commented several days ago that recently enacted legislation regarding local elections and appointments could also complicate matters.

Many towns and cities in Virginia elect mayors separately from councils. When a mayor or council member leaves office, the timing often determines whether the town or city must hold a special election to fill the vacancy or if the municipality puts the matter on the ballot at the next general election. Timing of the creation of the vacancy may also determine whether council can appoint someone to fill the seat, hold a special election or both.

For instance, Middletown must hold a special election in November for voters to choose candidates to fill two seats on Town Council that became vacant in recent months. The terms were not set to expire this year so the town had to file requests with the Frederick County Circuit Court to hold special elections for those seats. In the interim, Middletown Town Council appoints people to fill the vacancies.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com