City begins search for new mayor, but will soon need another council member as well by Gregory R. Norfleet · News · March 01, 2013
City leaders met Monday morning to begin the process of finding a new mayor of West Branch after the Sunday death of Mayor Don Kessler.
The council also will soon face having to replace council member Dan O’Neil, who has found a buyer for his home and will soon close the sale and move to Solon.
City Administrator Matt Muckler, City Attorney Kevin Olson and council member Mark Worrell met Monday morning to talk about the process of finding a successor.
Mayor Pro Tem Jim Oaks is still recovering from a recent hospital stay, so Worrell is acting as mayor for now.
Oaks said Sunday night that he would prefer to continue as mayor pro tem and not become mayor because he would have to give up his vote on the council.
Olson said the city has two options and residents have a third on how to find a new mayor. The city council may appoint someone to fill out the rest of Kessler’s term. Kessler was in the last year of his four-year term and was up for re-election in November.
The council also could call for a special election. Olson said he has never encountered this problem before, but thinks that the process for doing so would likely mean an election would not take place until May at the earliest.
“With it less than a year out, you would spend a lot of money … when the election is in November, anyway,” he said.
Olson said the city has 40 days to act on one of its options.
The third possibility is that residents may file a petition to force a special election.
O’Neil said he will likely continue to serve on the council through the end of March as he expects to close on his house in April.
He said Alex Koch, the newest West Branch Police Officer, agreed to purchase his home. However, Koch is in Des Moines attending the police academy and should finish April 19.
O’Neil, like Kessler, is also in his last year on the council and his seat is up for re-election in November.