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Tue, Oct. 22

Musical chairs on Tusayan Town Council
Craig Sanderson takes mayor's oath, Becky Wirth appointed to council and John Rueter nominated as vice mayor

Tusayan Mayor Craig Sanderson and John Rueter during the Jan. 6 town council meeting. Submitted photo

Tusayan Mayor Craig Sanderson and John Rueter during the Jan. 6 town council meeting. Submitted photo

TUSAYAN, Ariz. - At the Jan. 6 council meeting, Councilman Craig Sanderson was appointed as mayor and a new council member was selected from the audience and appointed on the spot.

Councilman John Rueter suggested the council appoint Becky Wirth to the position despite not publicly advertising the opening.

Last time there was a council vacancy the council advertised the vacancy for a number of weeks until the position was filled.

In response, Councilman Al Montoya asked whether the position should be advertised before making an appointment.

"Isn't there a process they have to fill out - the application for the seat, a letter of intent, a letter of interest that has to be submitted at some point," Montoya asked. "Just to point somebody out of the crowd...several people have shown an interest. I don't know if it would be fair to everybody if we didn't hear from those individuals who might not be present."

Rueter disagreed.

"The town manager has told us that by law we can appoint someone at our majority and that appointment will be valid as long as they meet the criteria that he mentioned," Rueter said.

Town Manager Eric Duthie had advised council members that a council seat could be filled in a variety of ways.

"There is no set specific process required of you, no statutory process that is required of you for how you go about filling a position on the council," Duthie said. "The only requirements would be those to hold office - (which are) being 18 years old, be a resident for at least 12 months and to be breathing is helpful. Outside of that, how you choose to fill the position is entirely up to you."

He said in the past the council had sought applications for the position.

"It's completely up to you how you want to move forward at this point," he said.

Rueter said he believed the council had a lot to accomplish and, with a retreat coming up, thought the sooner the seat was filled the better.

"I think that if we have someone who is ready to go with this council, someone that we know, I think it is appropriate to appoint them and I think the sooner the better," he said. "I think any of us that is on this council, if we were in the shoes of the public and we were truly interested in the council position we would make the effort to inquire about it and speak to the different council members, at least one or two of them. I would say that in my discussions with the public there is one person who I have spoken with and I would like to have her come to the podium."

Before they appointed Wirth, council members interviewed her and opened the floor to anyone else in the audience. Tusayan resident Ann Harris expressed interest in the council seat and was also interviewed. In the end, she said the council should appoint Wirth.

A motion was made by Rueter and seconded by Montoya to appoint Wirth.

"I would say we are well within what staff and our attorney said is (legal)," Sanderson said. "I confirmed with our attorney that if we had somebody who met the qualifications and that we were comfortable with moving forward with an appointment, we were alright to do so. I have no problem advertising it but I also recognize that we've done (appointments) before...I don't know if we would've come up with any different result had we advertised it."

Sanderson new Tusayan mayor

Councilman Sanderson stepped in as mayor of Tusayan after Greg Bryan officially resigned in December. Council members debated how long Sanderson would sit on the council as the mayor. They eventually decided that at the next available election the seat would be available. It was unclear at that point if Sanderson would go back to his original council seat after the election. Sanderson's council term is set to expire in 2018.

"What matters is that we are filling a council seat, one of the five council seats," Sanderson said. "That council seat will go for a term that will go until the direct election of the mayor."

Some of the council's uncertainty stemmed from an ordinance passed in March 2015 that called for the direct election of the mayor.

The ordinance originally called for a special election to be held in the absence of a mayor, however, a county election spokesperson informed the town that a special election could not be convened in that scenario. At that time council members decided the best wording for the initiative was to change 'special election' to the 'next possible election' for clarity. The ordinance stated the vice mayor would assume the responsibilities of mayor until the next possible election and any vacancy on the council would be filled.

Before the ordinance passed in March, members of the council, including former mayor Greg Bryan, voiced their concerns about the ordinance and how the ordinance would be carried out in the absence of the mayor. At that time, council members asked the town attorney to review the ordinance.

"We asked him to be in the process of looking into how we will make it applicable and to function in our system with regard to state law," Bryan said last March.

Rueter nominated as vice mayor

After Sanderson took the oath of office for mayor, the council selected a vice mayor from among its council members. Montoya said Rueter was already performing many of the duties of vice mayor and nominated him for the position.

"He's doing a lot of the things the vice mayor was doing before and I think it is only appropriate that he should slip into that title," Montoya said. "He's already doing the job."

Wirth seconded the motion and Rueter accepted the nomination.

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