At its Monday, September 16 meeting, the Manitowoc Common Council voted to appoint Courtney Pelot to serve as District 10 alderperson until April, 2020, in place of former Alderperson Bruce Jacobs, who resigned due to a relocation. This article will explain how this appointment took place, and how we feel about it.
First, a definite win for voters: When Ald. Jacobs initially resigned, the Council passed a resolution to appoint a replacement to serve until April 2021, which would be the normal end of the two year term. (There are 10 aldermen in Manitowoc, on two-year terms. Five are normally up for reelection each April.) After pressure from some District 10 voters, the Council amended the term to end in April 2020 instead, at which time a special election will be held and voters can choose who they want to represent them for a truncated one year term (until April 2021) after which the district will be back on its regular two-year schedule with elections in April of every odd year.
This was a good decision by the Council, but it should have been made back when Ald. Jacobs resigned. (More on this in a minute.) As we’ve mentioned before, we feel that the voters should choose their representative as soon as is practical. Since there is a presidential primary election already slated for April, 2020, adding the District 10 alderperson to the ballot will not result in any additional costs (unless there are more than two candidates). I will add though, if the Council had earlier decided to go this route, the smarter way to do it would probably have been to leave the seat open until the April 2020 election, and let the voters choose the new alderperson for the full year. The result of this last minute decision is, the Council chose Ald. Pelot to serve for 6 months, and then the voters will choose an alderperson to serve the next year.
On to the actual Council selection. I won’t go into all of the procedural issues, but four candidates put in applications for this position:
Theresa Fessler, performance improvement specialist at Point Beach and former D3 aldermanic candidate
Courtney Pelot, marketing manager at the United Way and former Miss Wisconsin
Dennis Steinbrenner, retired Lutheran HS teacher and principal, and former D10 aldermanic candidate
Kathy Zucchi, retired human resources director
This was a very strong slate of candidates!
The winning candidate needed to receive a majority of the Council’s votes. There were seven aldermen present (Alds. Howe and Kummer were absent, and the D10 spot was obviously open), so one of these candidates needed at least four votes to be named the replacement.
In the first round, the vote totals were (and who voted for them):
Pelot 3 (McMeans, Lotz, Sitkiewitz)
Fessler 2 (Williams, Novak)
Steinbrenner 1 (Brey)
Zucchi 1 (Czekala)
Steinbrenner and Zucchi were then eliminated based on their low vote totals. In the second round of voting, these were the results:
Pelot 5 (McMeans, Lotz, Sitkiewitz, Brey, Czekala)
Fessler 2 (Williams, Novak)
Pelot was declared the winner and was sworn in and seated.
The Periscope Group’s main concern about this situation was that the remainder of the Council had been taking the choice of this alderperson out of the hands of the voters for too long, first by taking away former Ald. Rhienna Gabriel’s committee voting powers, then by deciding to choose Ald. Jacob’s replacement until April 2021. By deciding last night to hold a special election in April 2020, rather than having the named replacement serve until April 2021, we believe that the Council made the best decision that it could have given admittedly imperfect circumstances. We have also expressed concern that a small group of elected officials wield a disproportionate amount of power in City government, so we’ll have to continue keeping an eye on this.
We wish Ald. Pelot nothing but the best, and we also encourage any of the unsuccessful candidates, along with any other interested parties, to give strong consideration to running for this position when the voters decide in April 2020.