BUCKHANNON — The last City Council meeting on Thursday, August 18 was described as lively and robust by City Recorder Randy Sanders. Tensions were high during some points of conversation; however, Mayor Robbie Skinner skillfully addressed the topic of difference of opinions.
While the meeting began with lightheartedness, the discussion of business prompted deep conversations fueled with passion among council members and public attendees. The conversation grew somewhat heated during discussion of how council would address the policies and procedures of filling vacancies.
Tension became apparent when council member and previous mayor of Buckhannon David McCauley spoke to current Buckhannon Mayor Skinner. “I do not agree even one percent with your sweat equity analysis. We have seen people run for council two, three, four, five, six more times and they are steadfastly rejected by our electorate,” Councilman McCauley argued. “Those folks should not be rewarded in the proper scenario where you might only have a couple openings and three people run. The person who has lost time and time again rejected by our citizens should not have an edge over somebody whose not out there again.
“I’m just thinking back over my 40-year association with the place years and years ago, there was a fellow who applied for an opening on city council and we interviewed him. He served for another year or so on city council, but ended up politics wasn’t quite his thing. He became very much ingrained with liking what city government was all about. We appointed him to consolidate public works board and he’s been a contributing member for probably 20 years. Susan Aloi had never run for office and you know she did applied. For that year and a half, she was our city recorder and she was one of the best folks we ever had in that position. Randy Sanders has worked out awfully well and I’m not saying that the next runner-up person wouldn’t be able to apply, they would be. They’d be considered along with anybody else who wanted to apply. If you only got the one application, I suppose the runner-up person would get it no matter who they were.”
Mayor Skinner responded, “I just know that it is a lot of work to get here. You know it is. It’s money, it’s time, it’s listening, it’s getting interviewed by the papers, it’s walking the streets and then once you’re here, then it’s even more time… It’s even more engagement because that stuff doesn’t just stop. I mean I can’t go to a restaurant. I can’t go to the river trail. I can’t mow my grass without getting spoken to and you know what, that’s fine and I appreciate that. I want to engage with the people who live here because that means we have an opportunity to make their lives better in their neighborhoods or for their businesses. We disagree on this and that’s perfectly okay. I respect everybody’s opinion here as to where it comes from. You know I believe in a majority, so I know that that’s what that seems to be what the majority of folks want to do and I will respect that.”
Public comments were then made questioning the process of having another election to fill the vacancy and more, to which Mayor Skinner referred to the charter and rules discussing that vacancies must be filled and council must have seven members in the event of a tie. The discussion continued with other council members addressing the issues and their opinions.
After much discussion, it was determined that an ordinance would be drafted by City of Buckhannon Attorney Tom O’Neil to address the issue. It was also noted that since it would be an ordinance, any changes would require multiple readings unlike a resolution, which would not require multiple readings to make changes and would also not require a replacement.
Mayor Skinner then stated minutes before the conclusion of the meeting, “I would just quickly observe that let tonight’s meeting be of the example that you know regardless of which seats we sit in up here, all seven of us are responsible for making decisions for our community. Just because I serve as mayor doesn’t mean that I always get what I want and just because anyone here sits on council doesn’t mean that they always get what they come here to advocate for.
“We say it all the time that… we are a team and we have to support one another, even when we might disagree. We still shake hands and, as friends and a team, that is all working together for a better Buckhannon. I just want to make sure that our community knows that all seven of us here are dedicated to serving the community. We are all the points of reference for our constituents and for the people and businesses here so I want to thank everybody for your work this evening.”