Eyeing options in Carbonear
Council must now decide how it will fill vacancy following Sam Slade’s departure
Questions are being asked by many residents throughout the Town of Carbonear about what is going to happen with the town’s leadership now that Mayor Sam Slade has been elected MHA for the district of Carbonear-Harbour Grace.
On Nov. 5, when Slade took a leave of absence with the town to focus on the campaign, Deputy Mayor George Butt Jr. assumed the position of acting mayor.
Slade had planned to resign from council on Monday, Dec. 2, ending a 20-year career in municipal politics. He would have been required to step down once he was sworn in as MHA, said town administrator Cynthia Davis.
What are the options?
But what happens to Carbonear’s town council now? Who will be the next mayor? The council has three options, according to the Municipalities Act, and what route they take will depend on how a majority of elected members feel.
The first option could see Butt assume the mayor’s chair. In doing so, the town will have to call a byelection to fill the empty seat on council, and a new deputy mayor would be named.
Council could also decide to have a special election for mayor.
The third — and most unknown option — gives council the power to vote through secret ballot, and then they can pick a current councillor to replace Slade. A byelection would then be held to replace the councillor.
It is unknown what the council will choose, especially just coming off a municipal election. All three
options will require that voters in the town once again head to the polls for what will be a third election since late September.
It is possible that Slade departure could trigger a chain reaction in which more vacancies are created.
Butt confirmed he will seek the mayor’s position if there is a byelection, or he will accept if council decides to have him assume the role.
If a byelection is called, any councillor — including Butt — would have to resign their current seat to run for mayor.
In 2001, Butt took on the role of deputy mayor to the late Mayor Claude Garland.
Three years later, Garland took a heart attack while out moose hunting. After his passing, council decided to give Butt the role until the municipal election the following year.
But with four years remaining in this term, and a completely different group in the council chamber, the outcome is anyone’s guess.
The Compass attempted to contact all members of council last week to determine who the situation may play out, but none were willing to tip their hand at this point.
Coun. Ed Goff said he would not be seeking the mayor’s chair if a byelection is called, and would not confirm which option he would support.
He said council will decide collectively.
Coun. Ray Noel was also evasive, but Coun. Frank Butt was more candid in his response.
“Deputy Mayor Butt has shown some interest in the position of mayor and I feel he would make a good mayor based on his roll as acting mayor,” he wrote in an email to The Compass. “I feel you have to work your way up the ladder before running for a position such as mayor.”
Coun. Butt has also confirmed he has aspirations to be mayor someday, and will consider throwing his hat in the ring in the 2017 municipal election.
Attempts to contact councillors David Kennedy and Bill Bowman were unsuccessful.
Return of a familiar face
If a byelection is called, some res- idents have already said they would like to see a female face take a seat in the chamber, while others would like to have a previous councillor with experience.
Former deputy mayor Ches Ash, who lost the mayoral race against Slade in September, has confirmed he will be placing his name on a ballot when a byelection is called, but would not confirm if he will seek the mayor’s chair again, or if he will try to get back on council.
“If and when the opportunity arises I am planning on putting my name forward as a candidate,” Ash stated in an email to The Compass.
Davis told The Compass a byelection must be called within three months of a vacancy.
Whichever choice is made, the residents of the Town of Carbonear will be heading back to the polls, whether it’s to vote for a new mayor, new councillor or both.