City seeks applicants for Jennings replacement

By Brandi Makuski

The Stevens Point City Council on Thursday voted to appoint an interim council member to represent District 1 through next year’s spring election.

The vacancy was created when former Councilwoman Tori Jenning resigned suddenly on Aug. 19, just four months into her third term. Because the city does not have a policy on its books, the Council must hold a special meeting to determine how to fill most elected vacancies on a case-by-case basis.

The majority of the Council appeared virtually by Zoom to discuss how to fill the vacancy on Aug. 26. City Clerk Kari Yenter explained in a memo that the Council could decide to hold a special election now, appoint an interim member until next spring’s election, or appoint an interim for the remainder of Jennings’ term through April 2023.

Alderman Thomas Leek (District 8) said while he didn’t want to leave the position vacant but he preferred the voters chose who takes Jennings’ place next spring, making a motion to proceed with an interim appointment through April 2022.

“April is not too far off,” he said. “That seems like a perfectly acceptable option to me.”

Council President Meleesa Johnson (District 5) was one of several on the Council who expressed concerns with any appointee being forced to run a campaign for a full term so soon after being appointed. She reminded the group that she began her time on the City Council as an appointee in February 2016 to serve the remainder of former Alderman Bryan Van Stippen’s term. Van Stippen resigned in December 2015, less than a year into his first term.

“So I didn’t have to run [for office] in April,” Johnson said. “So we have a precedent of filling a vacancy for the remainder of the term for that seat. I would suggest we follow that precedent.”

Alderman David Shorr (District 2) agreed, suggesting a possible primary in February would make any aldermanic campaign “even more compressed.”

Yenter said the city had precedent in other forms of appointment as well, pointing out former City Clerk Paul Piotrowski was appointed as an interim clerk when longtime City Clerk John Moe resigned three years ago. Piotrowski was appointed in September 2018 and elected to a full term the following spring. The regular term would otherwise not have expired until 2021.

Alderman Jeremy Slowinski (District 6) made a second to Leek’s motion.

“I believe an elected representative should be elected by the people and not by the Common Council or the mayor,” Slowinski said. “I am for appointing an individual until the April 2022 election.”

District 7 Councilwoman Mary Kneebone also had concerns about “running two campaigns in one year.”

“Whoever gets appointed, the burden it’s going to put on them to raise money twice a year and run twice a year…that’s [sic] my thoughts,” she said.

Applicants must live in District 1 of the city. (Courtesy City of Stevens Point)

Councilwoman Mykeerah Zarazua agreed that running two campaigns so close together would be a hardship.

“But looking at public perception, I think it is important to put in front of the voters as soon as is reasonable,” she said. “‘Reasonable’ is April. I think voters want to have a choice.”

The Council approved the motion by a vote of 9-0. Councilwoman Polly Dalton (District 9) was absent. 

The Council will likely make the appointment in September, although no date has been announced.

How to apply for the appointment

Residents of District 1 who are at least 18 years old and have no criminal history can apply for the seat. Anyone interested in the position will need to fill out a Declaration of Candidacy for Appointment by the Common Council.

Applicants are welcome to provide any additional information, such as a letter of interest, resume, references, or other materials they believe will assist the Council in the selection process.

The appointment application can be picked up at the City Clerk’s office during normal business hours, Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

For more information see “The Role of Common Council & Alderpersons.”

The deadline to apply is Sept. 13.

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