His term in Ward 5 is up for election in November 2020, but mayor term goes until November 2022.
A committee comprised of what is shaping up to be more than a dozen Ward 6 residents on Wednesday evening, Jan. 22 will interview two of their ward neighbors, Chris Plante and Dylane Klatt, each of whom has thrown his hat in the ring for a second time over the past few months in the hopes of being appointed to fill the vacant Ward 6 seat on the Crookston City Council and finish the three years left on the term of Cindy Gjerswold, who resigned last fall.
Gjerswold resigned less than a year after being elected because her family relocated to rural Crookston.
The third Ward 6 resident who sought to be appointed last fall, Patty Dillabough, has informed the Times that she will not seek the seat this time around because she will be out of town when the interviews are conducted. Dillabough is also a member of the Crookston School Board.
An interview committee comprised of a couple Ward 6 residents and city council members last fall interviewed the trio and eventually chose Plante. But he eventually fell one vote short of being appointed by the shorthanded council – no Ward 6 representative and no Ward 5 representative since Dale Stainbrook is currently the presiding mayor and only votes at council meetings to break ties – so the council had to go back to square one.
This time around, council members have agreed to not be involved in the interviews. While they will strongly consider whichever candidate is chosen by the ward residents-only committee, at the advice of legal counsel they have not indicated they will automatically appoint the committee’s chosen candidate because that would amount to abdicating their authority, which violates the city charter. So the council still has the final say.
City Finance Director/Interim Administrator Angel Weasner will “be in charge” at the interviews on Jan. 22, Stainbrook said, while he suggested that council members “stay home on the couch.”
While council members won’t be directly involved, Ward 2 Council Member Steve Erickson said he wants “better questions” asked of the candidates this time around compared to last time that are “more relevant to Crookston.” Also, instead of ranking the candidates after the interviews and during the subsequent discussion, which is what happened last time, there will be paper ballots this time, with committee members simply indicating which candidate they recommend for appointment.
In late 2019, Stainbrook, the vice mayor, said he was willing to continue to serve as mayor in the wake of Guy Martin’s resignation as the council continued its efforts to fill the Ward 6 seat. Council members said they were pleased with Stainbrook’s performance and had no problem with him continuing to serve as mayor in the interim. But Stainbrook and council members also said that it was important to get him back to his seat representing Ward 5, which hasn’t had a vote on the council since Martin resigned.
This week, Stainbrook checked in with the council again, to see if they were still cool with him serving as mayor through the process of filling the Ward 6 vacancy, with the plan going forward continuing to be the council addressing the mayoral vacancy once someone is sitting in the Ward 6 chair.
Early in the discussion at the Ways and Means Committee meeting, Ward 4 Council Member Don Cavalier made a motion to appoint Stainbrook mayor for the almost three years left on Martin’s term. Ward 3 Council Member Clayton Briggs seconded the motion. But a couple minutes later, after other council members voiced concerns about appointing Stainbrook in that fashion, Cavalier rescinded his motion and Briggs rescinded his second.
While council members continued to stress they’re pleased with Stainbrook’s work as mayor, they said no one previously said anything about simply appointing Stainbrook, whose Ward 5 seat is up for election in November 2020, mayor for three more years.
“This is not what we talked about before,” At Large Council Member Tom Vedbraaten said.
Council members then discussed what they said they’ve been hearing from their constituents, feedback that, Cavalier said, has people suggesting a process similar to what’s transpired over the past several months with the council trying and failing to fill the Ward 6 vacancy is not working, and that the council would be better off reaching out to someone in the community and appointing them when there are vacancies. (That’s similar to what the school board has done in recent years when there have been unanticipated resignations mid-term.)
“I’m hearing in my ward we need to move forward, we need to move on the mayor,” Cavalier said.
Stainbrook said that he, too, is hearing from his Ward 5 constituents that, whether he returns to his council seat or is appointed mayor, “They want us to do an appointment and not what we’ve been doing. They don’t want what we’re doing in Ward 6.”
Council members agreed that when they next meet on Jan. 27, they’ll arrive at a more specific plan going forward in regard to filling the mayoral vacancy.