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Libby's next mayor to come from city council

by Brad Fuqua & Western News
| November 19, 2008 11:00 PM

Based on discussion during Tuesday night’s Libby City Council meeting, either Charlene Leckrone or Doug Roll will take over as the community’s next mayor.

With a 30-day time period in which to appoint a mayor, the council felt compelled to take care of the matter quickly and scheduled a special meeting for Thursday to take a vote – an action that occurred after the newspaper’s presstime.

The decision to only consider members of city council for the post evolved out of discussion that included legal references, interest from a local resident and even one last surprise appearance by former mayor Tony Berget.

“It’s important having someone with experience in the short time we have to do this,” council member Bill Bischoff said. “I suggest it be open only to current council members. Once a vacancy happens on the council, then we can open up that position and advertise for it.”

Scott Evey, who owns Evey Construction Inc., in Libby, approached the council with interest in the mayor’s job. Evey painted himself as a young, energetic candidate with plenty of ideas for a positive future. He went over a few issues that centered around infrastructure and based on his interest could possibly be a future city council candidate.

The council, however, appeared hesitant to open up the position to the community at large with such a tight timeframe – a 30-day clock that officially started ticking on Nov. 12 with Berget’s submission of a letter of resignation. On top of that, the experience factor played into the decision.

“It takes a while to get up and running,” council member Walter McElmurry said. “Mayor is so much more than being a city council member. Nothing against the public for putting it out to a vote but we need to get somebody into the position with experience. We don’t have time to train.”

The position of mayor will be up for election next year with applications due this coming spring. Voters would then go to the polls for the general election in November.

Bischoff suggested that during the Thursday special meeting, each council member should ask Leckrone and Roll one or two questions before taking the matter to a vote. The candidate that receives a majority vote will receive the appointment.

The two council members up for the job will also take part in the vote but as Roll pointed out, their votes will cancel each other out. That leaves four remaining votes – assuming all council members take part in the meeting.

Berget’s participation in the Tuesday meeting was not expected and the former mayor said he felt uncomfortable taking part, only doing so at the direction of the city attorney. Berget had been sitting in the audience as an onlooker before Evans announced what he referred to as a “switch-a-roo.”

“When there is a resignation, he continues in office until his successor is elected,” Evans said. “The chairman of the board only steps in when he is absent.”

Leckrone was ready to direct the meeting if Berget had not been in the audience. But since he was there and following Evans’ citing of policy, Berget took a spot at the head table. During the meeting, the council officially accepted his resignation.

A motion to accept only city council members for the appointment of mayor passed on a 5-0 vote (Lee Bothman absent).

For those who receive The Western News prior to Friday, the special meeting on Thursday was scheduled for 5:30 p.m.

In other business from Tuesday’s meeting:

• The council voted 5-0 to help Tungsten Holdings replace an existing water line with pipe measuring eight inches in circumference.

• Listed to developer Ted Werner’s proposal for a concession on water and sewer hookups at a condominium/apartment project on the corner of Eighth Street and Dakota Avenue. The council passed the matter on to the water/sewer committee and will consider the request at the next regular meeting.

• The council voted 5-0 to amend the fiscal year 2008-09 budget to resolve an issue of payment for animal control services. Because of an oversight, the payment was not made last fiscal year. The amendment allows the city to pay double this fiscal year.

• During the public comment portion of the meeting, local resident D.C. Orr encouraged the council to look into the Environmental Protection Agency’s Record of Decision process involving the export plant and submitted a letter for them to review. Berget added that he also had concerns and believed the city should address issues.