Leader Blues

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

TOP STORY >>First mayoral vote goes awry

Leader staff writer

The Sherwood City Council voted Bill Harmon as interim mayor Tuesday night, but then found out the vote wasn’t valid and had to revote Wednesday afternoon. Former Mayor Bill Harmon, 80, still got the job.

The council called a special meeting Tuesday night to decide on a temporary replacement for Mayor Danny Stedman who resigned April 5, citing health reasons.

Without a mayor to chair the council, the aldermen decided to have their senior member, Alderman Becki Vassar chair the meeting. The council then went into executive session to discuss the matter. Fifteen minutes later, the council was back and Alderman Ken Rankin nominated Harmon. The council then voted, but Alderman David Henry was out of town, Alderman Charlie Harmon abstained since Harmon is his father, and Vassar, as chair, can only vote if there is a tie. Everyone else voted for Harmon, a 5-0 vote.

Municipal Judge Butch Hale then swore in Harmon as the interim mayor and everyone went home.

Later it was discovered that, in this case, the council needs two-thirds –or six votes—to pass the ordinance. With just five votes, Harmon was not officially the mayor. The council met again Wednesday afternoon and this time let Alderman Charlie Harmon chair the meeting which allowed Vassar to cast the sixth and decisive vote, making Harmon the mayor for sure—or at least until July 10, the date of the special election to elect a new mayor.

At Tuesday’s meeting, City Attorney Steve Cobb told the council and the hundred-plus residents attending the meeting that state law required the council to pick an interim mayor and set a date to elect a new mayor.

He said because Stedman served less than six month of his four-year term, an interim mayor could not be appointed for the entire length of the term. He said city residents would have to elect a new mayor.

The council set July 10 as the date and residents planning to run for mayor could start filing as a candidate on Friday. The last day to file for candidacy will be noon, May 2. As of Friday afternoon the only one to officially file was City Clerk Virginia Hillman.

Harmon, who was Sherwood’s mayor from 1992 through 2006, didn’t run in the last election, citing that it was time to retire. In accepting the interim post Tuesday, Harmon said he had been retired “long enough” and was ready to get back to work for the city.

Harmon also said that he planned to run in the special election. Stedman, 58, announced his immediate resignation in an April 5 letter to the council.

“With the strong recommendation of my doctor, the demands of my wife, family and close friends, I resign from the position of mayor,” Stedman’s letter stated.

Stedman butted heads in February over a department head hiring and was soundly chastised by the council. He’s also been working hard with council members and others to determine what options the city has in the pending sale of the North Hills Country Club for residential development.

Shortly after a meeting over the golf course issue March 28, Stedman was rushed to the hospital with chest pains, missing the council meeting that night. He was hospitalized over night for test and observation. Doctors said he did not suffer a heart attack.

“I deeply appreciate my friends and supporters,” the mayor said in his resignation letter, “for their steadfast backing, however; in the final analysis, my health, the health off my wife, a two time cancer survivor, must be my number one priority.”

This isn’t the first time in Sherwood’s history that the city has had an interim mayor. When longtime Mayor Jack Evans died in office in 1991, the council appointed the city’s human resource director Brent Chambers to the post and set a date for a special election. Then-alderman Bill Harmon won that special election.