Qualifying for city council election has begun in LaFayette

Published 6:58 pm Wednesday, December 12, 2018

LaFAYETTE – Three candidates have already stepped up to fill a vacant seat on the LaFayette City Council, according to LaFayette City Clerk Louis Davidson.

He said three people qualified for the seat by 10:30 a.m. Tuesday morning. Among those qualifying Tuesday were longtime Councilman David Ennis, retired engineer Shannon Hunter and District B runner-up in the 2016 election Charlotte Blasingame.

The candidates are vying for the seat left vacant by former LaFayette mayor and city councilman Mathew Hurst. He resigned June 25 to take a job in another city.

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Candidates have until Dec. 18 to qualify through the city. The special election for the seat is scheduled for Feb. 12.

Notable in that group is Ennis, who was the mayor of LaFayette from 1992 to 1996. Then, after deciding not to run, he was appointed to the city council and remained on the board until 2016.

“I just miss it,” Ennis said Wednesday. “I miss the challenge. I miss being involved in the budget process.”

He said his experience gives him a leg up, especially when dealing with city finances.

Hunter said he doesn’t have formal experience on a city council in LaFayette, but he did serve on a zoning and planning commission in Texas as a chairman. He also was a president of a homeowner’s association when he lived in Mexico.

He said his run for council is based the need for more communication between the government and citizens.

“They (the public) seem to be continually surprised, because they haven’t been told what is going on,” he said. “I have been recording council meetings to improve knowledge, so if they want to know, they will be able to know. I hope to provide more information to the public because I’ll be in the process.”

Although Blasingame couldn’t be reached for comment Wednesday, this is her second time running for a seat on this council. She lost to Hurst in 2016 by about 30 votes. In a letter to the council in August, she said although she has only been in LaFayette for a short time, she loves the city.

“I am proud of our council and look forward to working with the council and watching LaFayette grow,” she wrote in a letter.

She’s been involved with upgrading the cemetery and downtown square in LaFayette as well as working with the Christmas festival.

When Hurst resigned, Davidson said the council had 60 days to appoint somebody, but couldn’t come to a consensus.

In August, six candidates expressed interest for the job. Ennis, Hunter and Blasingame were interested along with Merilyn Vines, president of the Vines Funeral Home, Nell Finley and Brad Shaver. None of the final three had filed for candidacy as of Tuesday afternoon. Vines said she will not be running for the seat.

At the Aug. 13 council meeting, Mayor Barry Moody narrowed down his selection to Ennis and Blasingame. He said Ennis left the city in strong financial shape when he decided to get out of politics and Blasingame ran a solid race against Hurst in 2016.

He ultimately recommended Blasingame as his choice, citing her runner-up status in the race to Hurst.

“At the end of the day, the race she ran against Matt is what I heard the most,” he said. “It was not an individual name. It was, ‘why doesn’t the person who lost the race have the opportunity to do that job.’”

Moody said the law doesn’t state that the person who loses a council race shall get that seat in the event of a resignation, but that is how he reached his decision.

The council had different thoughts and ultimately pushed for an election.

Councilwoman Tammie Williams said in August that she felt the mayor narrowed the decision down to two candidates without asking for any input from the rest of the council. She said she was looking forward to hearing from each candidate.

“It seems like you kicked the rest of them out of the bucket,” she said. “To be fair to everybody, I’d say let’s just have an election and let the people speak.”

The rest of the council seemed to agree with that sentiment at the August meeting.

For an election to take place, a letter had to be sent to Gov. Kay Ivey’s office, asking for more time to fill the District B seat. Councilman Michael Ellis made a motion to send that letter, forcing an election to take place.

The motion passed four to one, with Moody being the only “no” vote.

“It has been almost two months since former council member Hurst left,” District D representative Michael Ellis said. “We have had 60 days to appoint somebody, but not once did we get together to say that we should have a work session to discuss these candidates. I say let the citizens elect through their vote who they want to represent them.”

For candidates to be eligible for the special election, they must fill a candidacy form at city hall before Dec. 18. Additionally, candidates must file a principal campaign committee form at the Chambers County Probate Judge’s office and a statement of economic interest with the Alabama Ethics Commission.

After qualifying ends, Davidson said ballots will be printed, and the election will take place Feb. 12.