The Harrietstown Town Council is trying to figure out how to adapt to the departure of Supervisor Bob Bevilacqua, who has resigned due to a family medical issue. After being deadlocked on whether to stick with a four-member board and to appoint a fifth member, the council now seems to be leaning toward picking a fifth. We support that.
Councilman and Deputy Supervisor Ron Keough also now seems to be leaning toward making that interim fifth member the supervisor rather than a council member. We're not so sure about that.
To us, the fact that the four-member council was deadlocked shows the need to appoint a fifth member. Mr. Keough and Councilwoman Nichole Meyette say a four-member board worked fine for eight months in 2012 after Supervisor Larry Miller resigned, but that board tended to agree on things. That isn't always the case, and shouldn't always be. Disagreement is an essential part of life, and government is a way to work through disputes. The current board, which is being pulled in more than one direction, needs a tiebreaker to get things done until the voters make their choice in November.
Getting a board majority to agree on that person will be a challenge, but that's one of the messier, necessary aspects of democracy. The board could consider one of the candidates who lost last fall's election, or someone else. That's up to them.
But we tend to think the interim fifth should be a councilman or -woman rather than a supervisor.
The best way to handle this is the simplest and most straightforward. There is a person already designated to fill in for the supervisor when he or she is not present, and that's the deputy supervisor - Mr. Keough. He was appointed to that role by Mr. Bevilacqua. Sure, that appointment was political, but it was also legitimate - consistent with official town government protocol and honored by the other council members when, for instance, the supervisor has to be absent for a meeting.
Mr. Keough is also available and willing to fill in through the fall, so there you go. The alternative would be to make up new protocol, and we don't see the need for that.
Plus, we'd prefer it if the council's seat of greatest power was held by someone elected by the people rather than appointed by the board.
Councilmen Howard Riley feels differently. He wants to appoint Mike Kilroy, the town's budget officer, as interim supervisor until the election. Mr. Riley says the problem with letting a council member be supervisor is that it gives that person a leg up on the competition if he runs for supervisor in November - assuming that Mr. Keough is considering a run. Mr. Kilroy has promised he won't run, and this being a small town, we'll take him at his word.
Mr. Kilroy is certainly well qualified and trusted in the community. He also happens to be a Democrat, like Mr. Riley.
Jan Plumadore, a retired state Supreme Court judge, has also volunteered to be interim supervisor. He, too, is well qualified and trusted in the community. He happens to be a Republican, like Mr. Keough.
Mr. Keough is also well qualified and trusted in the community, and he already holds the job of deputy supervisor. We have confidence in him to continue in the role through the fall.
We feel more comfortable with an interim supervisor who is, to use a baseball metaphor, in the on-deck position rather than subbing in a pinch hitter from the grandstands.