Van Eyll resigns: What now?

Chaska Mayor Gary Van Eyll announced , his resignation effective August 31 at Monday’s City Council work session.  Van Eyll, who was approaching the midpoint of his fourth term as Mayor, will be taking a position with the U.S. Census Bureau that requires him to give up public office.

The City Council will formally act on Van Eyll’s resignation at their next meeting on August 31.  They have two options for filling the seat:

  1. The Council can appoint someone to the position.  Per Minnesota law, any position that has less than two years remaining on its term can be filled by appointment.
  2. The Council can choose to call a special election.  This would likely be held in the October/Novemebr timeframe.

Considerable speculation has already begun regarding what the Council will do and who the new mayor will be.  Greg Boe’s blog seems to hint at an appointment (although he does point out that the Council has options), as Boe encourages people to advocate on the blog for who they think the right selection is.

Some names bandied about are Ward 3 Councilor Chris Schulz, who will serve as Acting Mayor in Van Eyll’s absence.  Jay Rohe, who lost to Van Eyll in the 2008 election, will receive support from a segment of the population.  It’s also unclear if Councilors Boe, Rick Ford, or Gino Businaro have interest in the job.

If one of the City Councilors is selected or elected to the position, then the Council has the same set of options for filling that vacancy.

I think a special election is the way to go. I realize this has two significant downsides: the expense of holding the election and leaving the council with only four voting members for a couple of months. However, what is easy and cheap isn’t always what is right.

The mayor position is the only city-wide elected office. All residents should have a say on who the mayor is. Promoting a city council member who has only been voted on by one-fourth of the city (or worse, someone who isn’t even holding an elected office at the moment) violates that principle.

Additionally, in municipal positions, incumbency is major advantage come re-election time. If the council appoints someone, they are giving that person a significant leg up in the 2010 mayor’s race.

The potential candidates listed above (and others not mentioned) should have the opportunity to make their case to the citizens of Chaska, not just the four members of the City Council.

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