The BOMA discussed the vacancy during its Dec. 8 work session. According to City Administrator Eric Stuckey, the city has leeway to decide on how to fill a vacancy on the board. The city’s charter allows the board to appoint a new alderperson, hold a special election or leave the spot vacant until the next election, which would be in October.
A number of alderpersons said they would not want to appoint a new member as it could act as endorsing someone or giving them an incumbency that would give them an advantage in the next election.
“This job is something that you need to do your due diligence and campaign; that’s part of it, and that’s what we all had to do, and I think that us appointing someone is almost giving someone a leg-up for the next election,” Alderperson At-Large Brandy Blanton said. “As we all know, voter turnout is unfortunately extremely low. We like to think it’s because we’re doing such a great job, but we also know that our citizens tend to be complacent. It’s almost like we’re playing God and trying to assume who the citizens want in a certain role.”
Alderperson Dana McLendon, who represents Ward 2 of the city, said should the board decide to appoint an individual, he would want the appointment to have unanimous support.
“I would not want to welcome a member to the board with dissenting votes in the room,” he said. “So, if we’re going to appoint somebody, I would want it to be someone we all feel good about.”
An appointee could fill the seat for nearly three years as Bransford’s term was set to expire in 2023, or the city could add the seat to the ballot in the next city election, giving an appointee just months on the BOMA. However, adding to the election could also create challenges, as there would likely be an added financial cost to the amount of funding needed for the October election, McLendon said.
Additionally, having the seat included on the October ballot—when the city also elects ward alderpersons—could create the potential to replace five members, a majority of the board, should all incumbents running be replaced. A similar situation happened in the city in 2007, when five members of the BOMA were newly elected, including Mayor Ken Moore.
“To me, we’re dealing with an issue that we’ve had probably one of the most exemplary aldermen that Franklin’s ever had [die],” Moore said. “We’re trying to fill her place and, in some respects, we’re trying to control who that next person is trying to replace Aldermen Bransford, and ultimately the people that decide who sits in that empty chair will be the voters.”
The city could have a vote regarding the seat as early as Jan. 12, the next Franklin BOMA meeting.