CALEDONIA — The Village Board will appoint one of its members to fill the remaining time of Village President Bob Bradley’s term rather than hold an election to find a successor, trustees decided Monday.
Last week, Bradley announced that he was going to retire from the position on Nov. 6. At a special meeting Monday, trustees debated the best way to appoint Bradley’s successor.
Trustee Ed Willing started off the discussion by nominating Trustee Kevin Wanggaard for the position through the end of Bradley’s term in April 2019, which Trustee Lee Wishau seconded.
But before the board could vote, Fran Martin, a member of the village’s Community Development Authority, asked that she be allowed to speak.
Martin said that by nominating a trustee to the position through 2019, the board was denying Caledonia’s citizens the right to elect a president.
“We didn’t vote for Bob (Bradley) for president for one of you to fill that position for 16 months of his term,” said Martin. “That to me is an abridgment of democracy and I’m asking you not to do it.”
Wishau, stating that he had misunderstood the nomination, withdrew his second and asked for more discussion on the matter.
“Out of the board members, I’d like to know who is interested and I’d like to ask a few questions to whoever is interested in this position on the board,” said Wishau.
Trustee Jay Benkowski agreed and said he wanted those interested to present the board with a platform. He also wanted the board to discuss whether they would nominate someone to fill the term through the 2018 municipal elections or until April 2019.
Village Attorney Elaine Ekes said the Village Board has “broad authority” when it comes to filling the position. She said the board could choose to fill the position through 2019 or fill it through the 2018 election.
Benkowski said that while a nomination through 2019 was legal, he thought the move had the appearance of cronyism.
“I respect your (Ekes’) opinion — it’s legal, but it’s the optics,” said Benkowski. “It’s political suicide.”
Two trustees interested
Wanggaard and Trustee Jim Dobbs said they were both interested in the position and thought the term should run through 2019.
“It’s going to take an enormous amount of work to get up to speed (as president),” said Dobbs.
“It takes about three or four months to get up to speed on what else is going on behind the scenes,” said Wanggaard. “I’d love to be president but I don’t believe it’s in this village’s best interest to be president for five months then run for election.”
Wanggaard said he believes that because of developments in the county, it is important to have consistent leadership through 2019.
“As a Village Board, we have to present ourselves to any number of big corporations that want to relocate here because of Foxconn,” he said, referring to the massive manufacturing campus proposed in neighboring Mount Pleasant.
Wishau made a motion for the interim president position to run through April 2018. Benkowski seconded, but in the final vote the four other trustees voted it down.
Trustee Ed Willing then made a motion for the interim president’s position to run through April 2019. The motion passed with Benkowski and Wishau opposed.
Wishau then made a motion that the board hold a special meeting next week at which Wanggaard, Dobbs and whomever else on the board is interested in the president’s position would give a presentation and answer questions about why they should be nominated.
The board voted in favor of the proposal and voiced issues trustees want the nominees to discuss, such as economic development, the Douglas Avenue corridor, land use, TIF districts, education, quality of life, parks and overall what they would like to see for the future of the community.
The special board meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 31.
“We didn’t vote for Bob (Bradley) for president for one of you to fill that position for 16 months of his term. That to me is an abridgment of democracy and I’m asking you not to do it.”
Fran Martin, Caledonia resident and CDA member
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