Council delays action on Ward 6 seat

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Uncertainty about how many candidates will file for election to fill Kathy Swan's Ward 6 council seat has caused Cape Girardeau's city council to delay setting the date of the special election.

The council is required to set a date for a special election to replace Swan, who was elected to the Missouri House in November.

In their last meeting of the year, council members instead opted for a special meeting at 5 p.m. Jan. 17 to set official election dates.

The election could be in April or August, depending on how many candidates apply. April would be a primary election if more than two candidates file, with the general election in August.

Councilman Mark Lanzotti said the uncertainty motivated the council to delay setting election dates until next month.

"We chose to wait until January to set the election dates because we don't yet know how many people are going to apply," he said.

The deadline for the filing of applications is 5 p.m. Jan. 15, just two days before the special meeting.

Councilwoman Loretta Schneider said while the number of applicants was the key factor in the decision, quite a few others had to be considered.

"There are several important elections coming up in 2013," said Schneider. "Besides the special election for the new council member, we also have the deer issue and the replacement of Rep. [Jo Ann] Emerson, so we want to coordinate our election dates with these events as well as possible."

Schneider has said she would like to see more women apply for the vacant seat. She and Swan are two of three women on the council; Meg Davis-Proffer is the other.

Dr. Wayne Bowen, chairman of the history department at Southeast Missouri State University and Southeast Missourian columnist, last week remained the sole candidate to apply for the vacant seat.

Schneider is concerned and believes the position is not drawing more candidates because they feel "discouraged."

"Very early, we had one candidate [Bowen] emerge and receive a lot of publicity and headlines in the news," Schneider said. "Running a campaign can get expensive, especially if you feel the other candidate already has the upper hand."

Lanzotti also is concerned.

"There is a pervasive notion among the population that these decisions are predetermined, and that is simply not the case," he said. "We are doing whatever we can to quell the perception that a successor has already been chosen."

Lanzotti and Schneider hope to see more people apply as candidates.

As they begin organizing the special election to find the new Ward 6 representative, the council also must appoint a temporary member to replace Swan.

The council has 60 days from the day of the vacancy to make the appointment. Swan will depart Jan. 8, meaning the council has until March 9 to name her temporary replacement.

City Manager Scott Meyer admits this matter has remained in the background because of the council's focus on the special election.

He said setting the dates of the special election is the council's top priority.

"Right now we're still working out election deadlines and other details," Meyer said, "but I expect the conversation of finding a temporary replacement to really start up around February."

Schneider said the search for Swan's temporary replacement will be among the first issues on the council's agenda after its special meeting.

Meyer encourages anyone interested in the temporary or full-time council position to submit an application. While admitting the responsibilities of a council member can be "daunting for anyone," he said the role certainly is worth the contribution to the community.

Pertinent address:

401 Independence St., Cape Girardeau, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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