Starting today, Chandler City Council members find themselves in a familiar situation as they begin sifting through a list of 38 candidates seeking to temporarily replace Martin Sepulveda, leaving to serve in Iraq.
But this time, they promise the results will be different from 2005 when Sepulveda’s seat sat vacant for months when the U.S. Navy reservist last served in Iraq because warring council factions couldn’t overcome their political differences to make a decision.
“We had a very different council that had some strong differences back then. I don’t think that’s the case anymore,” said Councilman Bob Caccamo, who also sat on the council the last time it attempted to select Sepulveda’s replacement.
A major difference from 2005, according to Caccamo, is Sepulveda’s decision to stay on the sidelines and not lobby for his own replacement. Back then, Sepulveda had pushed for his business partner and former Chandler mayor, Jim Patterson, to fill his seat.
That ignited a political brawl that publicly exposed the deep fissures existing on that council. Three of the remaining council members sided with Sepulveda in supporting Patterson . The other members threw their support behind another former Chandler mayor, Jerry Brooks.
“That was done by some so they could maintain a majority voting bloc on the council,” Caccamo said, referring to those who supported Patterson.
Without that type of pressure, Caccamo believes the council will find it a lot easier to find a consensus candidate — albeit not everyone’s top choice — they can agree on.
Another element that could come into play as they try to find a replacement could be the prospect of elections looming this fall in which candidates don’t want to risk being seen as obstructionists. That was one of the lessons drawn from the last elections, said current Mayor Boyd Dunn.
“The voters made some decisions the last time around that I think will address that,” he said. In that election, Chandler elected two new council members to replace a pair of officials who were termed-out of office.
Those new members, Trinity Donovan and Jeff Weninger, were lauded by their council colleagues as being fair and nonpartisan. “It’s a different council and a different make-up,” said Councilman Matt Orlando.
Although it is a temporary position, the decision on a replacement is an important one because that person will be involved in one of the most crucial functions of municipal government — the city budget.
The task is made even more important this year as the council grapples with potential cuts to city services as it deals with dwindling sales tax revenue, a slowing housing market and less money coming from the state as it faces a $1 billion deficit.
In total, there are 38 candidates vying for the job — more than the 27 applicants in 2005. Among them are a high school principal, a mortgage broker and a retiree.
Sepulveda is expected to leave by the end of the month and could be gone for as long as a year. He had announced in November that he and his son had both been called to active duty.
With the deadline to file applications to replace Sepulveda now past, each of the remaining six members on the council will nominate one person. Sepulveda is prohibited from nominating a replacement.
The council will interview the finalists Jan. 17 and take a final vote for a fill-in shortly after. A simple majority is needed to select a candidate, who will receive normal council salary for as long as he or she serves. Currently, council members are paid $13,500 per year.
Ray Ceo, Jr.
Timothy (Scott) Clapp
Walter Griffin, Jr.
Robert Sandoval, Sr.