My mission is to address your questions, get more people involved and to address periodic issues concerning Middleburg and its community. Please send your Town questions (complaints?) to the Eccentric.
This article addresses a new twist for town council. State law requires council members to reside within Middleburg’s town limits. The May 3 election for three council seats will have four candidates on the ballot: J. Kevin Daly, Trowbridge M. Littleton, Phillip M. Miller and Tony C. Pearce, along with Betsy Davis (unopposed) for Mayor.
The twist: Erik Scheps is moving out of town (late April) in the middle of his term. This mandates a vacancy. The May election will not fill this vacancy, despite the fact that we have four candidates on the ballot. The legislature in Richmond changed the law for how council addresses a mid-term vacancy.
Previously, council appointed someone to fill out the remainder of a vacated term. Under current law, council must file paperwork for a temporary appointment and then appoint a temporary council member to fill Erik’s term. The seat is then subject to a vote in the next election (November), to a term expiring June 30, 2018.
So, if four people are already running for four vacancies, why vote? Council is not obligated to appoint the candidate who voters do not elect on May 3. If the votes are relatively close, it may. However, the town will soon advertise the vacancy and solicit letters of interest from Town citizens before appointing anyone. Thus, it is incumbent on the voters to select the three people they want to see on council in the election.
Middleburg’s state charter provides for split council terms, each for four years. This means that half of council seats, plus the mayor, are elected every two years. This is good because it prevents an unproductive period by a council composed of all new members, all learning how council works under state law, as well as how to work with one another. Typically, new members require much of their first term to become fully productive. This split also helps tremendously to preserve continuity and institutional memory. Lessons learned by previous councils do not require relearning. Council is also more able to make long-term goals. (For me, this has allowed years of work on improving the Town’s water utility while addressing other Middleburg issues, such as planning and vision.)
Middleburg has been fortunate to have a council of dedicated and experienced members and hard-working committees. Every council member has taken the training by VML (Virginia Municipal League) in the beginning of his or her first term. Training for newly elected public officials is invaluable for helping council members understand how Middleburg must work within parameters set by the legislature in Richmond. I fully expect the new members to take advantage of this. The Town pays most expenses, such as the VML fee and certain expenses. The Town Clerk, Rhonda North, can provide details.
VML also provides training for planning commission members. All of us took this training in the decade I was a member. I recently became aware that the current commission has lapsed in this training and now plans a special mini-training session here in town to try to catch up. In my experience, the full training is much more extensive and I will ask all future commission members to take advantage as council appoints new members.
Middleburg elections are non-partisan, that is, candidates do not show party affiliation. Nor do members seek party platform goals on council, as these do not address Middleburg issues. Most of us do not entertain ambitions for higher office, so parties make little sense on council. This also helps us avoid the rancor of party politics, achieve better cohesion and to more effectively address issues concerning Middleburg.
To recap, on May 3, voters will elect three new members to council who require training. The newly elected members must also work to become effective once they take office on July 1. Council will also appoint a new member in May or early June. He or she will also require training.
Please join me in voting May 3!