Members of Martinsville City Council will dedicate a portion of their March meeting to hearing from residents who are interested in serving on the council.
Chad Martin announced earlier this month that he would resign from the city council after accepting a new Environmental Policy Strategist position in North Carolina. His final meeting as a member of the council is on February 28, and his last official payroll day is March 1.
Mayor LC Jones said the Martinsville City Council will dedicate a portion of the meeting after that to gauge interest. But during a meeting with City Manager Leon Towarnicki on February 21, Jones said he learned that Martin had not completed the paperwork necessary to affect his departure.
Aaron Rawls, vice mayor, also noted a formal resignation has not been tendered.
“We are working dawn to dusk and then some on current city business, so until the resignation is formal, I am not putting any time nor thought toward the matter,” Rawls said.
Contacted later, Martin said he was not aware he needed to fill out paperwork. He added that he will complete that task before the next council meeting, which is on February 28.
Once the required papers are submitted, Jones said the city’s charter gives the council 30 days following a vacancy to appoint a member. The council also must decide whether the appointee would serve the remainder of Martin’s term or ask for a special election.
“If we decided to have a special election, that would be something the council would vote on,” Jones said. “The reason we wanted to do it” publicly and via appointment “is because we’re hoping some people will come forward that want to get involved, and we’ll have a good group of people to select from,” he said.
After Martin submits the paperwork, “at the following council meeting we’re holding a hearing for people who are interested in the position,” Jones said. Those who are interested will be asked “to come forward and state their name, and basically give some background as to why they want to be in the position,” he added.
Between then and the final meeting in March, Jones said council members would select from among those who “put their name in the hat.”
He added that he currently does not have anyone in mind to fill the vacancy.
Noting this is not the first time a council member resigned mid-term, Kathy Lawson, a long-term council member, and a former mayor said the council appointed someone to complete the term.
“I feel certain because there are two years minus two months left on Chad’s term. So, absolutely someone will have to be appointed,” she said.
But unlike Jones, Lawson has a potential candidate in mind. She believes the city should consider Jennifer Bowles, who lost her reelection bid last year.
“Jennifer is a person of color, and I do think it needs to be a person of color” appointed, Lawson said. “I don’t know how well that comment will be perceived in the community, but I do think that the dynamics and makeup of the council is important.”
Noting that Bowles is well-respected, and not a newbie to the council, Lawson said her appointment would mean “we would not have three members of council that have absolutely no experience in serving in a public office. To me, she missed being reelected by 55 votes. I think she would be the perfect person.”
Jones disagreed, and said appointing Bowles would be a step backward.
“For us to appoint her and put her back in there when the election primarily was her representing the old guard of how things were, her and Danny Turner” while Jones and Rawls represented “change and a new guard” would be unfair to voters, Jones said.
“I think it would be unfair to the voting constituents of us to go backward and want to put her back in there,” Jones said. “I think if she wants to come back then, she should run an election and win that seat to get back into the council. I don’t think it should be an appointment. If there’s an election and she chose to run, that’s a completely different thing.”
Noting that Bowles was defeated in the most recent election, Tammy Pearson concurred.
“I think our citizens voiced their opinion,” Pearson said. “However, if she would like to be considered we can definitely talk to her and look at other possible candidates who might be interested in an interim position.”
Pearson does not have anyone in mind for the post, but her goal is to appoint a member who will serve Martinsville’s citizens and vote in residents’ best interests.
“Honestly, I want someone who’s really going to do their homework, their research, and get out there and talk to our citizens before casting any votes,” Pearson said.
Jones said he was not surprised at Martin’s decision to step down, and noted that he and Martin met a week or so before the resignation was announced.
Then, “he kind of told me it was on the horizon, but he wasn’t sure if he would do it at that time,” Jones said. “The (job) offer he had was not a sealed deal” when the two met.
Pearson said that while she appreciates Martin’s work on the council, she also believes everyone must do what they believe is best for their own lives.
“If he (Martin) feels that it’s in his own personal best interest to leave the state and move for a new job, I wish him the best and thank him for serving on the council,” Pearson said.
Lawson said she was deeply saddened to learn about Martin’s departure.
“Chad brings to council information that a lot of us don’t have knowledge about,” Lawson said. Martin’s “input and his observations are quite different from mine, being that he’s 40 and I’m 60. That age difference has a different perspective, to say the least on how you look at things.”
She added that Martin will be missed in the community, and wishes him the best.
“Just because I’m going to North Carolina doesn’t mean that I won’t be coming back to check on Martinsville,” Martin said. “Trying to help people is the major thing I will miss more than anything else.”