Infill

Three years into her second term on the Asheville City Council, Holly Jones has opted for a change of venue. Backed by voters who propelled her to victory on election night, Jones will now claim a seat on the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners. But that means City Council must find someone to serve out the final year of her term.

Making her move: Asheville Vice Mayor Holly Jones (left), seen with Mayor Terry Bellamy, is headed to the county Board of Commissioners, leaving City Council to pick her replacement. Photo By Jonathan Welch

On Oct. 14, Council members voted to try a new system for choosing colleagues under such circumstances, and the process is already under way.

The day after the election, the city officially put out the call for a new Council member. And on Nov. 6, Jones submitted her letter of resignation, effective Dec. 1 (the day she is slated to be sworn in as a commissioner). Any city resident who’s eligible to vote and who’d like to be considered for the seat can request an application from the city clerk’s office, due back by noon on Wednesday, Nov. 26. The application includes five essay questions culled from a list of 14 submitted by Council members back in mid-October. City Clerk Maggie Burleson will confirm the candidates’ eligibility before sending them on to Council members.

In a special meeting scheduled for Tuesday, Dec. 2, Council members will hold a formal vote to determine whom to interview. Then, on Dec. 9, they’ll conduct those interviews and, in a concurrent formal session, vote to select the seventh City Council member. The swearing in will take place a few days later.

Vice Mayor Jan Davis, who proposed the system, said the idea is to have the new Council member on board in time for the annual retreat in January.

The new method represents a departure from the approach taken in 2001 and 2005. In both those cases, a sitting Council member was elected mayor, and the vacant Council seat went to the unsuccessful candidate who drew the most votes in the Council races. Now, however, it’s been a year since the last City Council contests, when Bryan Freeborn lost the seat he’d been appointed to two years earlier after Council member Terry Bellamy was elected mayor. Freeborn has said he would reluctantly fill Jones’ seat if asked, noting that with only one year remaining on the term, the appointee needs to be able to hit the ground running. But Davis, who voted against Freeborn’s appointment in 2005, said that picking him now would be inappropriate, since so much time has passed since voters last weighed in on Council candidates.

Up for grabs

Interested in filling Jones’ Council seat? Applications are available at City Hall through the city clerk’s office. Call 259-5601 for more information. Completed applications must be received by noon on Wednesday, Nov. 26.

A few members of the public have called for holding a special election to determine who fills the seventh seat, but Council members haven’t publicly discussed that option. Davis, however, has dismissed it as too cumbersome and expensive, especially considering that there’s only a year left on Jones’ term.

Jones, meanwhile, has her own hopes for whoever fills her seat: a woman who shares her views on affordable housing and other social issues. “Somebody like me!” she exclaimed at her victory party on election night. And since the actual selection will be made after her resignation takes effect, Jones will not have a say in choosing her replacement, though she did submit potential essay questions along with her colleagues.

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2 thoughts on “Infill

  1. Bob Falls

    The quote attributed to Holly Jones of “Somebody like me!” is not accurate. Anyone who knows Holly knows she would not make that kind of comment about herself. As Holly was listing the attributes she would like to see in a new council member (all of which she had), I rudely interrupted with my exclamation of “Somebody like you!” So, I apologize for the interruption but was totally sincere in wanting a new person on council who shares Holly’s views and passions. Of course, I’m also married to Holly so I will allow that I might be subject to some degree of bias

    Bob Falls

  2. Brian Postelle

    Mr. Falls’ recounting of the exchange is accurate up to the point where Council Member Jones gave the quote. She may have said it in celebration or in jest or in response to Mr. Falls’ exclamation, but she did say it.

    Considering she said she would prefer to see the seat go to a woman who shares her passions, I thought it accurate and appropriate to use.

    (In the interest of full disclosure, I was not present at the exchange. Another reporter, who was covering the returns for Buncombe Commissioners race, asked the question and later played a recording of the conversation for me to use in this story.)

    Brian Postelle

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