ARMA — Arma City Council Member Ray Vail resigned his position during the council’s regular meeting Monday, and was reappointed to a vacant seat — which will extend his tenure two years.
Vail ran against Mary Lou Peace and current council member Richard Kerley for two available seats on the council in the recent 2017 city and school board election. Peace received 46.2 percent of the vote, and Kerley received 30.4 percent, securing the two seats for them.
Vail received 23.4 percent of the vote, which would have ended his time on the council in January when his current term expired, but he was reappointed to a seat left vacant by the resignation of Johnnie Logiudici, whose term does not expire for two more years.
Before selecting Vail for the appointment, Mayor Rock Anderson opened the meeting for public comment, and allowed three other individuals who had submitted letters of interest for the position to speak.
Peace urged the council to select a candidate other than Vail for the appointment.
“As I have personally taken the time to visit with the citizens of Arma over the past month, it is becoming clear that many want new voices on the council,” she said. “I feel that I was elected not because people know me personally, but that they are seeking a council member that will listen and be a voice of reason for their concerns of the city, rather than the ‘good old boy’ behaviors that they feel have become commonplace here.”
Letters of interest were accepted by the city from mid-October to November 17, and Lissa Rhodes, Terry Lewis and Rob Lessen applied for appointment to the vacant seat.
Rhodes currently chairs the Arma Economic Development and City Revitalization Committee, and has brought in Certified City Planner Dick Horton and Pittsburg Director of Community Development and Housing Becky Gray to share ideas for the improvement of Arma.
She echoed Peace’s claim that citizens want new voices on the council.
“If we are not moving forward, we are dying,” she said. “And if we are just maintaining what the city is currently doing, we are dying.”
Anderson said he did not see the election numbers as a massive loss for Vail, and that his performance in the election is why Vail was his choice to fill the spot.
“When I make a decision for the city, I take it seriously. When you make a decision for the city, some people are going to be upset,” Anderson said. “My choice is Ray Vail because of the election numbers. He went to city hall and filed. He put his money down, ran a campaign and got 23 percent of the vote. That speaks to me.”
Vail was appointed by a 2-1 vote by the council. Kerley and Dick Cleland voted yes, Scott Popejoy voted no.
Following Vail’s appointment to Logiudici’s seat, Anderson asked Peace if she would like to be appointed to Vail’s former seat, which would expire as she took her newly elected position on the council.
Peace said she would not accept the appointment because she did not think it was the proper way to fill the seat. She said since a new seat was vacant — Vail’s and not Logiudici’s — another request for letters of interest should be published.
She asked what procedure is used to appoint people to a vacant seat, as well as saying Logiudici’s seat was not filled the same way vacant seats had been appointed in the past. Logiudici resigned at the October 16 meeting.
“A notification was placed in the designated paper, but the position was not filled at the next regular meeting as had been done previously,” she said. “Because of the fifth Monday in October the next council meeting would have been three weeks later, giving persons ample time to file a letter of interest. The council chose to not fill the position until after the election, which left the vacancy in place for five weeks.”
Anderson said the vacancy was filled according to state statute.
“I do it right by Kansas Law,” he said. “Council made the decision to not fill the seat until after the election.”
He also stated that the vacancy left by Vail’s resignation and reappointment would be filled at Monday’s meeting.
“We already have people who showed interest in serving on the council here tonight,” he said.
All three interested parties said they were still interested in being appointed to the new seat. The council appointed Rhodes to the seat that will expire in January with a 2-1 vote. Popejoy again voted no.
City Attorney Rick Smith said publishing another request for letters of interest posed a logistical problem.
“At this point, it is practicality,” he said. “By the time the city would republish and get new letters of interest, the person appointed may only serve for one meeting.”
Vail has served on the council five years, and said no matter what people may think, the council is very proactive and cares about Arma.
“When I came here, driving around Arma, I saw the city was clean and that people take pride in their property,” he said. “When I got on the council, I realized why. The council is very proactive whether people realize it or not. People think the city council is why the grocery store and pharmacy left Arma; it’s not why. The grocery store closed because the owner couldn’t make a profit because the people did not support it, and the pharmacy closed because people didn’t support it.
“If Wal-Mart sells a loaf of bread for five cents cheaper, people drive there to shop. The council has help the city have good police, a low crime rate and a good fire department.”
After taking her council seat, Rhodes gave an update on the economic development committee. The committee will have a meeting at 6 p.m. November 27 at the Golden Era Senior Center. Pittsburg Area Chamber of Commerce President Blake Benson will present at the meeting. The meeting is open to the public.
— Chance Hoener is a staff writer for the Morning Sun. He can be emailed at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @ReporterChance.