The Fountain Hills Town Council seat vacant since the death of Kathleen Nicola won’t be filled until the town’s March 14 election. Nicola died May 19 from injuries suffered during a boating accident at Lake Powell.
Council members have unanimously decided to keep the group at six until the election rather than appoint a replacement for Nicola, who was 43. Councilmen Mike Archambault and John Kavanagh are also up for reelection at that time.
"The council represents the citizens of this town," said Mayor Wally Nichols. "This close to an election, we thought we might as well let the citizens decide. We didn’t want to appoint someone to possibly give them an unfair advantage of being an incumbent for a time.
"We didn’t want to have people look at our pick and say, ‘You should have appointed a woman’ or ‘I would have liked a young person.’ This way, residents are the ones who will make the choice."
Nichols said there isn’t an ordinance directing the council on filling such a vacancy. It can appoint a replacement or wait until the next election, he said. Nichols added while there have been resignations, no other council member has died in office.
Town Manager Tim Pickering said the election process will begin in earnest by December.
"Probably then, that’s when we’ll really start to hear (who might be interested)," he said.
Nichols said four or five people indicated they would serve if appointed, but only until the election. Nichols said those people agreed with the council’s decision.
"This is what’s best for us and for the citizens of Fountain Hills," Nichols said.