On Tuesday night, the Roxboro city council will begin the process of choosing a new member of their own body to fill the seat left vacant by the death of Byrd Blackwell.
Council members have wide latitude under state law in how they choose someone to fill the seat.
They can appoint a new member with or without public input. They can seek their own candidates for consideration or they can solicit letters of interest from qualified residents. They could return to the election results from the most previous election and tap the candidate who came in just short of election in 2017. That would be Jermaine Wallace. They could – if they wanted to – leave the seat vacant until the next election, but given the fact that more than two years remain in the current term, that seems an unlikely option.
However city council members choose to fill the vacant seat, we encourage them to look for a handful of important qualities in the person they select. The council member should be familiar with city operations and understand the relationship between city, county and state governments.
The city’s next council member should enter the role with some ideas about how he or she would like to shape municipal government over the next two years or so. Roxboro is a well-run operation, so the new council member won’t be expected to turn the apple cart upside down, but instead that person should look for sensible ways to make improvements where they can be practicably be made. That requires a clear understanding of the current council’s priorities and long-range plans.
Roxboro’s new council member should also have a track record of working with disparate groups and helping them find common ground. That’s critically important to the city of Roxboro as it makes plans to work more closely with Person County on a variety of issues from economic development to land use planning.
And, finally, the newest member of Roxboro’s city council should exhibit the inclusive nature that Councilman Blackwell held. He was always willing to work with and listen to any person or group that came to him for help. While it is not possible to do everything for everyone, it’s important that our newest council member be open to all comers.