The last thing the Crookston City Council and City of Crookston administration needs is people wondering why they do things the way they do, or why they seem to struggle with the same disagreements and conflicts and situations that most would like to avoid.
Of course, any city council and city administration anywhere wouldn’t want or need that second-guessing and consternational from the people it serves, but if you keep up with our municipal government, you know why our local council and City administration could use some smooth sailing for a while.
But that's an especially tough task these days. We had a council member in Ward 6 resign less than a year after being elected because she built a house outside of town, and earlier this fall we had our mayor, Guy Martin, resign and walk out of a council meeting, also less than a year after being elected.
You'd like the process of filling vacancies in City offices to be as controversy-free as possible, but that hasn't been the case in Crookston in recent years, and it hasn't been the case so far as the City and council try to fill the Ward 6 seat.
When Gary Willhite was elected to the Polk County Board of Commissioners and resigned as Crookston mayor a few years ago, the process of replacing him bordered on a circus. We ended up with Wayne Melbye as mayor, but not before lengthy debates among council members and an interview committee that at one point appeared a few seconds from appointing barely-old-enough-to-drink-legally Dillon Fenno as mayor.
Now, this fall, the process of replacing Cindy Gjerswold in Ward 6 isn't going any better. An interview committee recently went back and forth for around 90 minutes, weighing the pros and cons of the three Ward 6 residents who indicated their interest in being appointed to the vacant seat, Patty Dillabough, Dylane Klatt and Chris Plante. The individuals were ranked one, two, three, and their rankings proceeded to go up and down, then council members changed their top choices, and candidates were eliminated from contention and then re-emerged, and on and on it went. Plante was eventually selected, and Vice Mayor Dale Stainbrook said he hoped there wouldn't be any "drama" when it was time to appoint him at the Oct. 14 council meeting. But there was drama; the council tabled Plante's appointment because Ward 3 Council Member Clayton Briggs wants more time to answer questions and address concerns. Plante’s appointment will be back on the agenda Oct. 28.
It's not a good look. It hasn't been since dating back to Willhite's resignation.
Does it seem right that the council should, essentially, elect people to serve on the council? Should the council be choosing mayors? No. The people should be tasked with that responsibility, that power.
Just look at the Crookston School Board for an example. They had a vacancy, they made a temporary appointment, and they’re having a special election this November so district voters can decide between the two candidates, Jim McBride and Mike Theis, whom they want to finish the term of Kari Miller, who resigned and moved to Grand Forks.
Whenever the possibility of having a special election is mentioned, the response usually includes something about the extra hassle and the cost. Well, it's not like you're breaking the bank. If there are council seats or the mayor's seat to fill in the middle of terms, or in this case, closer to the beginning of terms, it would serve the council and the Crookston community well to remove themselves from the equation and let the voters decide.