Erica Barker

ERICA BARKER

Despite an objection that 4th Ward residents should vote for their next representative, the Maquoketa City Council Monday decided to appoint someone to the vacant ward seat.

After everyone agreed to accept Councilman Jacob Baker’s resignation, Councilwoman Erica Barker cast the lone vote against appointing a new person to the council instead of holding a special election in which 4th Ward residents would choose their representative.

Council members Jessica Kean, Mark Lyon, Josh Collister, Kevin Kuhlman and Ronald Horan Jr. voted to make an appointment.

Two weeks ago, Baker resigned the 4th Ward seat to which he was elected in 2017. In his resignation letter to the city, Baker cited a growing family and work responsibilities, an expanded ministry at Faith Community Church, and furthering education as reasons for his action.

“It has reached a point that I need to prioritize the areas of my life and make a change,” he wrote.

The resignation came after the Sept. 14 deadline to place a seat on the Nov. 5 city ballot, leaving the city with the choice of appointing someone or holding a special election.

Baker became the fifth person to resign midterm from the Maquoketa City Council since 2015. That fact was not lost on Barker, who said she was less concerned that the city would have to pay about $1,200 for a special election and more concerned about public misconceptions.

“My concern on this issue is that there’s a perception out there that we are picking and choosing of our own,” Barker explained. “Even though I know we’ve done appointments in the past, that maybe this is an opportunity to give 4th Ward especially an opportunity to pick their council person.

“What would it hurt to do a special election? I know that it’s going to cost money, but we’re always criticized about not letting the people speak,” Barker added.

Maquoketa Police Chief Brad Koranda noted that Iowa Code limits when special elections can be held. No special city elections could be held during the remaining months of 2019. The next special city election could be held March 3, 2020, according to the secretary of state’s office.

Horan said he supported appointing someone if more than half the person’s term is completed.

Kuhlman also favored appointment, noting that 4th Ward residents can request a special election. By law, 4th Ward residents can file a petition requiring the city to hold a special election to fill the vacancy. The petition must be filed within 14 days after the appointment. At least 200 people or at least the number of signatures equal to 15 percent of the voters who voted in the last general election must sign the petition. 

Lyon made the motion to appoint a new member. The motion passed 5-1.

People who live in Maquoketa’s 4th Ward can submit an application to be considered for the appointment. Pick up an application at Maquoketa City Hall, complete it, and return it to city hall by 4:30 p.m. Monday, Oct. 28.

City council members expect to appoint a new council member during their meeting Monday, Nov. 4.

The appointee will serve the remainder of Baker’s two-year term.

The city already had received two applications as of Monday.