Columbia City Council to decide when to fill Fifth Ward seat

Monday, October 22, 2012 | 5:30 p.m. CDT; updated 5:44 p.m. CDT, Monday, October 22, 2012
Fifth Ward Councilwoman Helen Anthony resigned from the City Council effective Nov. 30. The Fifth Ward is shown below.

COLUMBIA — Fifth Ward residents will go months without representation on the Columbia City Council.

At its Nov. 5 meeting, the council will choose between filling the seat of Fifth Ward Councilwoman Helen Anthony through a special election in February or waiting to hold a regular election in April, officials said.

Anthony announced her resignation effective Nov. 30 at the recent council meeting. She intends to move to Providence, R.I., to be with her husband, who moved there in February to accept a job at Brown University.

The registration process to campaign for the seat has not begun, City Counselor Fred Boeckmann said. At the next council meeting, members will decide when to begin the process and how long to give the candidates to collect the 50 signatures required on nominating petitions, he said.

"The candidates would get at least a month, I would think," Boeckmann said.

The seat will remain empty until an election is held, Boeckmann said. Ordinances and resolutions that go before the six-member council in the meantime still would require four votes to pass.

Susan "Tootie" Burns, who announced her intention to run for the seat last week, said she has picked up application documents from the city clerk's office but that the office is not yet accepting applications. She has already begun collecting signatures.

The main downside of holding a special election would be the cost, Third Ward Councilman Gary Kespohl said. He also said that it would be difficult for candidates to campaign in the wintertime.

Nonetheless, Kespohl said, he would prefer holding a special election in February. "The sooner the better," he said.

Peter Koukola, a representative of the Cedar Lake neighborhood in the Fifth Ward, said he is concerned about Anthony's seat being vacant.

"It's a concern, I think, of the entire ward," Koukola said. "It'd be nice to get the seat filled as quickly as possible."

Koukola said he is not worried about lacking representation on any specific issues facing the council, but that other ward residents are concerned about the construction of a large power line through their neighborhoods, which the council has been considering for more than two years. Several routes have been discussed; all would have an impact on the Fifth Ward.

If the election for Anthony's seat is held in April, the ballot will be crowded. The seats held by Kespohl, Fourth Ward Councilman Daryl Dudley and Mayor Bob McDavid already are up for election that month.

Supervising editor is Scott Swafford.

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