It’s official, or at least it will be on January 14, when Naperville councilman Grant Wehrli’s resignation takes effect. He will then head down to greener pastures in Springfield to represent the 41st District in the state House.
When that happens, the Naperville city council will be short one council member and by law, the mayor and the council are required to fill the vacancy by March 15 to complete his term. It will be a very short term of service, since the election for council and mayor is April 7.
Filling a vacant position can either be a ‘golden’ opportunity as former Governor Blagojevich (now in prison) referred to, or it can be a golden opportunity as it was for Gerald Ford when he was appointed to replace Vice President Spiro T. Agnew (who resigned in disgrace), he was then was elevated to President when Richard Nixon resigned in disgrace.
Wehrli’s first term in office was not by election, but rather by appointment to complete a term of a vacated council member. From that non-elected term, Wehrli was able to gain a foothold on the council and skate to re-election. In essence, an appointee who runs for office becomes an incumbent, and incumbents are difficult to unseat no matter how ineffective they might be.
This is why, whomever is appointed to complete the vacated term will have an advantage in the upcoming election. There is bound to be some pushing and shoving occurring in the inky shadows of city hall until the appointment is made.
What is the mayor, along with the council to do, in order to stay impartial, if in fact, they truly want to keep it a level playing field?
Let’s talk about what they won’t do. They won’t appoint the Watchdog, but everything else is an option.
In fairness, they could do one of the following:
- appoint the highest non-elected vote-getter in the last municipal election, which would be current candidate Kevin Coyne. No doubt that would give Coyne a boost in the upcoming election.
- appoint a non-candidate, someone from the community who cares about the city, and isn’t concerned about getting elected or personal gain.
Then there is always the guaranteed can’t-lose political option of appointing Police Manager (aka Chief) Bob Marshall to fill the vacancy. Marshall could take a 4 week vacation, from his current position as Police Manager to cover the time he’ll be on the council. The council could then pass an ordinance allowing Marshall to receive a third pension for sitting on the council, until April 8.