WILMINGTON — Wilmington City Council members on Thursday nominated Michelle Preston to fill the unexpired term of Councilman Paula McGreevy, who resigned Aug. 10 because she said she felt her integrity was in question.
The vote – a 3-1 decision – came four days after Supervisor Roy Holzer announced on the city’s Facebook page that he was calling a special meeting at the community center and would present a motion to nominate Preston, who is currently in operations. regional visitor office manager at Whiteface Mountain. She is also the widow of former Town Supervisor Randy Preston.
Holzer said he also posted the reunion announcement on the Jay Community News website and at the post office.
Opening the meeting, Holzer apologized to his fellow board members: advisers Darin Forbes (assistant supervisor), Tina Terry Preston and Tim Follos.
“When I published the public notice on transparency, it was my personal point of view”, Holzer said. “They weren’t speaking on behalf of the city council members as a whole. I stand by my comments.
Preston was on the City Council ballot in November 2021 and came in third place. Voters chose Follos and Tina Terry Preston to fill the two vacant council positions.
After his apology, Holzer turned the meeting over to his assistant supervisor, he said, because he had already made his decision publicly.
“We have decided to fill the position with a candidate who we feel is best qualified based on his experience, up to date on city issues and essentially past running for office,” Forbes told the audience of more than 30 people. “It has nothing to do with any of the candidates. They are all great in their own right. Everyone sitting here agreed that next election cycle, if we have four such strong candidates, we will be a very lucky city. .
After reading the ad for the special supervisor’s meeting on Facebook, a number of residents reached out to council members and three more people expressed interest in the vacant councilor seat. It was Stephanie Gates, who was on the ballot in 2021 but said she would not take the job if elected as she had just started a new job at Northwood School and was unsure to be able to devote enough time to the city. former city councilor Rarilee Conway, who decided in 2021 to retire from city service and not run for office; and Mindy Goddeau, who is currently the Treasurer of the Village of Lake Placid.
After the assistant supervisor’s opening remarks, Tina Terry Preston thanked everyone who contacted her about the nomination.
“We had a lot of divisions in our city, and it’s no secret,” she says. “But I think now is when we have to start coming together, working together regardless of the outcome today. We’re not going to make everyone happy. It’s just not going to happen.
Tina said she tried to respond to as many emails as possible because it was important to hear the views of her constituents. City council members, she added, were there to listen.
“So please start making your voice heard, and please start coming to meetings and talking to us,” she says.
Forbes then asked members of the public if they wanted to comment on the nomination. Several people, including Gates, expressed opinions, and all but Gates said they would like to see Michelle Preston nominated.
“I would very much support Michelle’s nomination because I think it’s really important to have someone who is a known entity, and I think a lot of people know how Michelle works and what she’s capable of,” said Conway. “My submission letter really stood for Michelle.”
Conway said she was ready to spend time as a city councilor until the end of 2023 if needed. McGreevy’s city council seat expires Dec. 31, 2023. Holzer said that because McGreevy tendered his resignation after June 20, it’s too late to put his seat on the ballot for the November election.
After about 10 minutes, the city council reconvened in executive session to discuss the nomination.
During the executive session, Gates spoke to the Enterprise about her desire to be the next councilwoman. After a year in her new position at Northwood School, she said, she feels she has enough time to devote to the city. If the city council did not nominate her, she added, she expected to be on the ballot in November 2023 for the position.
After the executive session, Forbes explained that city council members talked about the four candidates and the wait to fill the position. Then Holzer moved a motion to appoint Michelle Preston to complete McGreevy’s unexpired term, Forbes seconded the motion, and Tina Terry Preston voted in favour.
When voting, Follos did not say “Yay” Where “Nope” At the move.
“I vote for Stephanie Gates” he said.
“So you’re voting no” said City Clerk Dawn Stevens, who was seated next to Follos.
“I vote for Stephanie Gates” He repeated. “Nothing against Michelle.”
Then the meeting was adjourned.
After the meeting, Michelle Preston said she was delighted with her nomination.
“I look forward to beginning to serve the city to a greater extent than I have in the past 20 years,” she said, adding that her first goal is to try to bring unity back to the city.
“We’ve had a lot of splits in town lately, and I’d like to see where our board will work together,” said Michelle Preston. “Nothing against Paula. Paula was fantastic, and I’m sad to see her go because I think she was a very quiet voice on the board, and her departure was a huge loss for the city. But hopefully I can balance the board again.
As for running in the November 2023 elections, she would not commit to either case.
“I won’t make any promises yet” she says. “We will see.”
After the meeting, Follos explained why he voted against Michelle Preston’s nomination.
“It was not the right way to do it, announcing it four days (before the special meeting), appointing someone a little more than a week after the resignation without other people having the opportunity to express their interest, Folos said. “It was basically announced and then ratified. There has been no outreach, as far as public comment is concerned. There could have been. There could have been many different ways to do it. »
Follos also explained why he would have voted for Gates instead.
“Stephanie Gates represents a large segment of the community that has been ignored for a long time,” Folos said.
Follos wondered why the meeting was taking place during the working day and why this appointment could not have waited until the next regular meeting of the city council.
“I don’t think it’s an absolute urgency that we need a new member of the city council within a week or eight days after the resignation,” Folos said.
On Friday, Holzer defended his decision to take the nomination quickly.
“It was not an emergency” Holzer said in a phone interview. “It was more about managing this business because we have so many issues going on, I want a full board. … Say, God forbid, something else happens to another one of us, it was imperative for me to fill the position as soon as possible. Politics did not enter into it.
Holzer also defended his decision to call a special meeting and announce his choice to replace McGreevy on the board.
“From my point of view, it was the only way to do it”, he said. “It was just a few months ago, she circulated a petition, started running for the job herself,” he said. “And the reality is that she got 170 votes.”
Holzer acknowledged that he and Follos differed in their approach to filling McGreevy’s seat.
“I told him, I said if there weren’t other people who would have run in the last election, and if the last election weren’t so close… I would have been the first to say ‘OK. We will be accepting applications. We will interview and name that way. But it made sense.” Holzer said. “The town has been a bit controversial lately, and I thought a quick date, a justified date, would be the best thing for the community.”
Holzer also pushed back against any speculation that his choice of Michelle Preston was politically motivated. After all, he said, he is a Republican and she ran as an independent in 2021.
“Anyone who knows me and knows Michelle,” he said, “She and I can sometimes be like oil and water. So it’s not because I’m on Team Michelle or anything like that. It is simply the right thing to do.
Preston’s first meeting as a councilor will be on September 13. Anyone wishing to run for the four-year term in the 2023 election can submit nomination petitions early next year.