The Mount Airy Board of Commissioners voted 4-0 Thursday night to seek applications from citizens to replace Scott Graham, a councilman who died on Jan. 2.
“We’re going to miss Commissioner Graham an awful lot,” said the board’s Steve Yokeley. “But in his absence we have to move forward, and we have to decide what to do.”
Yokeley’s comments seemed to sum up the tone of Thursday night’s commissioners’ meeting — the first since Graham succumbed to cancer just two days after his 64th birthday. While Yokeley and other city officials reflected on the major void the passing of the board’s at-large commissioner has left, they also recognized the need to move forward.
Mayor Deborah Cochran called for a moment of silence in remembrance of Scott Graham near the start of the meeting. Before it began, a vase of white roses — which signify honor and reverence — had been placed at the spot Graham occupied for the past two years since his 2011 election.
“Our hearts are still heavy,” the mayor said regarding the passing of a man she believes had a “passion” for city government service. “He was a visionary.”
“The loss of Commissioner Graham is significant,” fellow board member Jon Cawley said near the end of Thursday’s meeting as the board discussed how to fill the vacancy.
“He was a good friend of mine and a good commissioner,” Commissioner Dean Brown said.
On two occasions since 2008, the city commissioners have been faced with replacing a member.
“The last time we did this, it wasn’t because of such a sad reason,” said Yokeley, who had assembled a proposal before Thursday’s meeting for the remaining board members to consider for filling Graham’s spot.
It will involve a procedure used in the past, in which applications will be solicited from citizens. Since the at-large council seat is at stake, the process is open to residents throughout the city limits and not affected by the ward in which someone lives.
A timetable approved by the remaining members calls for the commissioner vacancy to be officially advertised to the public in the coming days.
The process will require the submission of written applications, with the deadline to receive them set for Feb. 7 at 5 p.m. The applications will be in the form of a notice either by email, fax or regular mail that the candidate would be willing to become a commissioner if appointed.
Then during its Feb. 20 meeting, the board will allow all candidates to speak up to 10 minutes to summarize their qualifications and why they want to serve as a commissioner. The council also will have an opportunity to ask them questions.
This will be followed by the commissioners making choices on a tally sheet. The person who receives the majority of the votes will win the seat, with other steps built in to break a possible tie.
That individual will be sworn in to office during the board’s March 6 meeting.
Commissioner Shirley Brinkley said she would be seeking God’s guidance during the process.
“I will be praying for the right person,” she said.
Reach Tom Joyce at 719-1924 or firstname.lastname@example.org.