FRONT ROYAL – The Town Council is continuing to consider how it will fill the seat left vacated when former mayor Hollis Tharpe resigned.
Tharpe's resignation became effective May 2, shortly after he was indicted on a misdemeanor count of soliciting prostitution. Although he proclaimed innocence, Tharpe said he resigned so any negativity surrounding his court proceedings would not reflect on the town.
During a half-hour closed session on Monday, Town Council members discussed what route they will take in filling the mayoral seat.
Vice Mayor William Sealock - who has been the acting mayor since Tharpe’s resignation - said after the closed session that the town has 45 days from Tharpe's resignation to appoint an interim mayor. That interim mayor, he said, could be a sitting councilman or a qualified citizen.
Sealock explained that whoever is appointed interim mayor will serve until a special election. Sealock said that since a county election is slated for November, that is the most likely time that a special election will occur. Ultimately, he said the date of the special election will be at the discretion of a Warren County Circuit Court judge.
Whoever is elected will serve through the remainder of Tharpe’s term, which is set to expire at the end of 2020.
Sealock said the reason the council discussed the appointment during a closed session is that the town does not want “to announce anything unless we’ve got a way forward.”
He noted that all of the nuances in the town and the state code regarding the matter make it “more complicated than you think it is.”
Sealock added that the council would again discuss the appointment during another closed session next week. He said the town will “have a definitive answer” on the path forward by May 28.
He said the town’s decision needs to be “absolute” and “clear” before being made public, and that “we’re getting there.”
Asked whether he would like to pursue the mayoral seat, Sealock said: “I’d prefer not to lose my vote.” Though he did not expand further, mayors can only vote to break a tie.