Residents voice desire to choose representative

Published 3:00 am Friday, October 7, 2016

Former District 5 Councilwoman Dejerilyn King Henderson often ended city council meetings by stating, “If you don’t have a seat at the table, you’re probably on the menu.”’

Henderson’s untimely passing after being re-elected in August has many District 5 residents concerned that they may not get a seat at the table.

About 50 residents gathered at the Pike County Courthouse on Thursday to discuss the vacancy on the city council and how to address it.

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“We’re here tonight because it’s about the process, transparency, integrity and the unity of the community,” said Willie Thomas, one of the event leaders.

Confusion persists in the district about what exactly that process will be.

According to City Clerk Alton Starling and an attorney with the Alabama League of Municipalities, the process for filling the vacant seat is by appointment of the new council, which takes office Nov. 6.

However, if the new council were to go 60 days without appointing a representative for the seat, the appointment would move to the governor. The governor could appoint someone, or allow the probate judge to hold a special election.

City officials have not yet clarified whether a special election for the seat could be held before the passing of that 60-day time period.

What is clear is that the residents of District 5 want to be the ones to choose their representative.

One possible option that was discussed was submitting a name or names to the council that residents support for the seat.

Many residents voiced that they thought a special election would be the most fair way to handle it.

Jake Wingard, who organized the meeting, said that its purpose was to discuss these options before the situation unfolds.

“We’re trying to get ahead of the game,” Wingard said. “We want to be the ones to choose who represents District 5.”

Wanda Moultry, the only other candidate that ran in the District 5 race, said that residents would have to change the law for anything besides the procedure described by Starling to take place.

“We have the right to discuss anything we want to,” Moultry said. “But that’s the law. The only way to change this is to change the law.”