2012-02-16 / Editorials
How to handle Gillette’s vacancy
The ink was still drying on Dennis Gillette’s retirement letter when critics of the current council majority began chirping about his potential replacement. It’s politics as usual in Thousand Oaks.
Rather than wait a few days and show respect to a man who’s given nearly 50 years of his life to the city—25 as a sheriff’s deputy, 10 on the park district board, 13 on the council—and another six to his country as a U.S. Marine, they immediately began demanding to know how his seat would be filled.
Had Gillette been leaving the council under other circumstances, the critics’ reaction may have been justified. The botched handling of Ed Masry’s early retirement in 2005 is still fresh in the minds of some, so it’s not surprising that many are skeptical of how the situation will be handled this time around. But considering that the 72-year-old Gillette is in a life and death battle with diabetes, an unforgiving condition that has left the once busy mayor—who tried never to miss an Eagle Scout or ribbon-cutting ceremony—temporarily confined to a wheel chair, a little more tact would have been appropriate.
With that being said, the council’s impending decision on how to fill Gillette’s seat is critical. While it will be impossible to make everyone happy, council members need to demonstrate that they’ve learned a lesson from the Masry debacle.
Here are their options:
Option A: Appoint someone to serve the remaining three years on Gillette’s term.
Option B: Leave the seat vacant and declare a special election to coincide with the November general election and let the voters decide then.
Option C: A hybrid of A and B—adopt an ordinance and appoint someone to serve until the election.
To us, the decision is obvious: C.
By passing the ordinance and appointing someone to serve until the general election, the council avoids leaving itself short-handed for an agonizing nine months (and risking deadlocked votes) and still gives the public the power it deserves to dictate who should serve the majority of the vacated term.
As they should have learned in the situation of Tom Glancy—who was picked to serve out Masry’s final three years—cities should avoid appointments whenever possible. Not only do they fly in the face of democracy, an ideal most Americans hold dear, but they turn into political battles that polarize the general public.
Unless it’s a matter of cost, appointments are bad news. In this case, with the general election just around the corner, the cost of putting the abbreviated term to a vote of the people is nominal.
So to the council: Do the right thing. If we want to honor Gillette’s decades of service to the community, it starts with handling his appointment as he did his tenure with the city: with class.