Council picks new member

FRONT ROYAL – The Town Council filled one of its vacant seats Monday after weeks of interviews and discussions behind closed doors.

The council voted 4-0 at a special meeting to appoint Gary Gillispie to serve out the rest of Councilwoman Bébhinn Egger’s term set to expire Dec. 31, 2018. Egger resigned at the end of June because she moved out of the state.

The council went immediately into closed session at the beginning of the special meeting to discuss the appointment. Councilman John Connolly made the motion first to add the closed session to the agenda for the special meeting because the item did not appear on the agenda made public prior to Monday night. The council voted 4-0 to add the closed session to the agenda. The council came out of closed session and Connolly made the motion to appoint Gillispie to fill the vacant seat.

Gillispie is the third person the council has appointed in less than two years  to fill a vacancy. The council chose this method rather than hold a special election to fill the seats.

Prior to taking the vote, Mayor Hollis Tharpe told the audience that this appointment posed a challenge for the council, which interviewed eight qualified applicants. After the vote, Meza echoed Tharpe’s comments about the challenge the council faced with choosing one person from the applicant pool.

Vice Mayor Eugene Tewalt did not attend the special meeting. Tewalt voted against the council’s appointment of Chris Morrison early this year to fill the seat left vacant with Tharpe’s election to the mayor’s position. William Sealock Jr. and Meza, appointed to council in early 2016, won election in November. Tewalt won re-election. Business owner Mike McCool came in fourth in the race for three council seats. Tewalt argued before Morrison’s appointment that the council should pick the candidate who received the next highest number of votes in the general election.

Egger announced her resignation earlier this year. The council accepted applications and started conducting interviews behind closed doors beginning in July. The council, including Tewalt, met in closed session at the end of its most recent regular meeting. Tharpe indicated to media representatives that the council could come out of the closed session and vote on a candidate. Instead, the council did not vote at that time when they returned to open session.