It’s seen as perhaps the most avoidable election in Ceres’ history but on Tuesday, Aug. 31 voters in District 1 will be asked who should fill the vacant seat in District 1 on the Ceres City Council.
The nomination period for prospective candidates will open up on May 10 and end on June 4. Only registered voters residing in District 1 are eligible to throw their hat in the ring. Candidates must fill out nomination papers which must be filled out and signed by at least 30 registered voters from the same district and returned by June 4.
The elected member would then only serve from September until the term expires in December of next year.
There has not been a special election to fill a council seat in anyone’s memory.
The seat has been vacant since Jan. 4 when Channce Condit resigned midway into his four-year term to serve as the District 5 county supervisor. The City Council deliberated four times about appointing someone to fill the seat but remained deadlocked 2-2 and unable to reach a consensus. That forced the council into the tough decision of ordering a special election that could cost as much as $45,000 when the county Elections Division sends the bill to the city.
Four persons submitted their names to be considered for the seat appointment. There were Laurie Smith, a 14-year member of the Ceres Planning Commission; day care facility operator Connie Vasquez; Memorial Medical Center technician Mark C. White; and limousine business owner Parminder S. Bahia.
Councilwoman Linda Ryno and Councilman Bret Silveira were only willing to support Smith – insisting that her qualifications enable her to hit the ground running without any training – while Mayor Javier Lopez and Vice Mayor Couper supported other applicants besides her.
On Monday Smith said she expects to “make a decision very soon” as to whether she will run for the seat.
The vast majority of citizens who weighed in on the council remaining deadlocked blasted Lopez and Condit for refusing to appoint the person with the most experience and causing an expensive and unnecessary election. However at least one resident, John Osgood called the $40,000 election cost “chump change” and said having the voters decide should have been the council’s charge from the beginning.
The Courier found the only time a special election was held for a vacant Ceres council seat occurred in November 1976 when voters elected Jim Delhart over five other candidates to replace Steve Wright who resigned in July 1976 to pursue a career as a police officer. It is unclear if state law at the time allowed councils to fill a vacancy by appointment.