Appoint or elect…that is the question. Bemidji City Council members are reviewing a second reading of an ordinance that would change the way a vacant office shall be filled.
It all started when Reed Olson was appointed by Council Members to fill Rita Albrecht’s seat in Ward 4 after she won the mayoral election in 2013. But soon after Olson took office, the Charter Commission received responses from the public asking why an election to fill Albrecht’s seat was never conducted.
The original language of the charter states that Council Members have a choice to either appoint or hold a special election for candidates when an elected office becomes vacant. But now the ordinance amending the charter calls for an appointment or special election depending on the timing of the vacancy. If there are 364 days or less remaining after the Council has declared a vacancy, the Council must appoint a qualified replacement, but if there are more than 365 days left then a special election must be held. The ordinance also states that if there were more than two candidates filing, a special primary election shall be held.