Runoff could result in vacancy
by Staff Writer
CORNELIUS – The town could soon be in the market for a new mayor if the July 17 runoff election sends Mayor Jeff Tarte to the state Senate.
Mayor Pro Tem Lynette Rinker seems to be the likely candidate to fill his shoes, but under the town’s charter anything could happen.
“In a nutshell, the town charter says the town board shall vote to fill a vacancy,” Rinker said. “In the past when there’s been a mayor vacancy, the mayor pro-tem was elevated to the mayor’s position.”
Town attorney Bill Brown said the board has full discretion and can fill the mayor’s seat with any eligible resident who is over 18 years old.
“You often hear of the practice of tapping the next highest vote getter in the last election, but that is not an established or required rule,” Brown said. “The board has discretion here.”
If Tarte wins the senate seat, he’ll have to resign as mayor by year’s end, which would leave the mayor’s seat vacant until January 2014. The municipal election is not until November 2013.
And while the Board of Commissioners will also have the option to leave that seat open, Tarte believes the commission should fill the vacancy.
“If it was just three months left, I probably wouldn’t fill it, but it’s all driven by the duration,” Tarte said. “Being a full year, it would make sense for the board to appoint someone to fill that seat.”
And while the board hasn’t really discussed the what-ifs of Tarte’s possible election to senate District 41, Rinker said she’s ready to fill that position if the board decides she’s the woman for the job.
“I have been working in one capacity or another in service to Cornelius for the last 10 years,” Rinker said.
Rinker has served on the town’s growth management committee, worked on the transportation advisory board, land development committee, planning board, and is serving her second term as mayor pro tem.
“And I would set that record of experience and depth of knowledge up against anybody,” she said. “And if I’m asked to serve in the position of mayor, I will do it with the dedication that I’ve given the town continuously over the last 10 years.”
She said she’d also be able to make mayor her full-time job.
While Rinker is ready for the job, and Tarte thinks she’s a viable candidate, he stressed that anything is possible.
He added, there are a lot of pros and cons to weigh with the various options.
“Some would say let the mayor pro-tem step up, or Dave Gilroy because he’s the longest serving commissioner,” Tarte said. “Or maybe there’s another commissioner who would want it. Or you could keep it apolitical and appoint someone from the community, or someone who might be interested in running for the seat in November, or pick someone who has no interest in running.”
Rinker said she hasn’t even begun to consider running for the mayor’s seat in 2013, regardless of what happens in the coming weeks.
“There are a lot of different options and pros and cons to each and no right or wrong answer,” Tarte said. “There’s just alternative ways.”