Monday, April 21, 2014

City taking applications for Richards’ vacant seat

By DOUG CARDER, Herald Senior Writer | 4/22/2013

The clock is ticking.

The clock is ticking.

Residents interested in serving on the Ottawa City Commission have until 5 p.m. May 2 to submit their applications.

The commission voted April 17 to accept commissioner Jeff Richards’ resignation. Richards stepped down because he was sworn in as Franklin County’s new sheriff April 10.

The commission has 45 days to appoint a successor, according to city statute, Bob Bezek, city attorney, said. The appointee would serve Richards’ two-year term until the next general election. Richards had been re-elected April 2 to a two-year term.

Commissioners said at their study session Monday they did not want to drag the process out for 45 days. They opted to close the application process after 10 days, which would be the close of business May 2.

“I think people will have made up their minds if they want to apply by May 2,” Blake Jorgensen, city commissioner, said.

A person must be a qualified member of the electorate to serve as commissioner, Bezek said. Those requirements are that the person must be 18 years of age or older, reside within the Ottawa city limits and have no felony convictions.

Interested persons can pick up applications at City Hall, 101 S. Hickory St., Ottawa, or get an application on the city’s website — www.ottawaks.gov — or Facebook page. Applications should be directed to Leslie Quillen, executive assistant to the city manager, at City Hall.

Bezek told commissioners several residents have asked him if the candidate who received the next most votes in the April 2 election would automatically be appointed to fill Richards’ vacancy.

“The answer is, ‘No,’” Bezek said.

The election’s outcome has no bearing on the appointment, Bezek told commissioners.

“Those [candidates] are certainly welcome to apply, but each application must stand on its own merits,” Bezek said.

Richard Nienstedt, city manager, asked if commissioners could approach people in the community to gauge their interest in serving.

“Absolutely — the more the better,” Bezek said.

Sara Caylor, mayor, said city commissioners would review the applications at their May 6 meeting and then probably start the interview process at their May 13 study session. Depending on the number of applicants, the commission could have Richards’ vacated position filled by late May.

Richards was sworn in as sheriff the morning after word arrived that Gov. Sam Brownback had appointed him to the position to succeed Jeff Curry, who resigned April 1 amid allegations of wrongdoing.

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