By Jacob Mathias
After the mid-term resignation of Wisconsin Rapids City Clerk Shane Blaser, city leaders are trying to determine how to fill the vacant position.
Blaser formally resigned on October 5 to pursue other professional goals. His final day in office is December 18 though his full term would end in 2018. His absence requires a new clerk be instituted and the city’s Common Council has to decide how they will go about that position. Options were discussed at a joint meeting of the city’s Human Resources and Finance and Property Committees.
The position of the clerk requires the keeping of municipal records, organizing elections and organizing and distributing meeting agendas and minutes.
The council could appoint a replacement clerk for the remainder of the term or an election could be organized. Should the council choose to appoint, the electorate could force a referendum and vote if they are unhappy with the council’s choice according to City Attorney Susan Schill.
Committee members expressed their concerns and possible merits for both options.
“Does it have to be an elected position? It’s such a critical position in the workings of the government between the common council and the departments and so forth,” said District 7 Alderperson James Stack. “You may get somebody in their that might not be competent in that position.”
District 1 Alderperson Chad Wirl said that issue is no different than electing an alderperson, city attorney or mayor.
While a temporary clerk could be appointed by the mayor and council for the remainder of the term, there is time for a special election to be organized for the position of clerk during the April 2015 elections.
“I respect their vote but they don’t see it from the prism of what we see,” said District 3 Alderperson Scott Kellogg. “In my mind it’s not a governmental position as much as it is a professional position.”
Blaser voiced his preference in his resignation letter.
“This may also be seen by some as an opportunity to change the position to an appointed one. I do not support this decision,” wrote Blaser. “The citizens expressed their opinion in four referendum questions at the April 4, 2006 election. Voter participation was high. The results showed that the citizens wanted to keep the positions elected as opposed to appointed and were not in favor of combining them by a three to one margin.”
If the council chooses to appoint a clerk, that individual would be sworn in as deputy clerk and work under Blaser until his last day in office. The appointed clerk would have to run for election once their term ended in 2018.
Options for clerk will continued to be discussed at the committee level and finally approved by the Wisconsin Rapids Common Council.
The next meeting of the Common Council is October 20 at 6:00 PM.