City Councilors in Springfield, Massachusetts next week will attempt to fill a vacancy among their ranks.
The council’s General Government Committee voted to recommend a process for appointing a new city councilor for Ward 1 – a seat left vacant in January when Adam Gomez resigned after becoming a State Senator.
It falls to the 12 councilors to pick someone to serve the rest of Gomez’s unexpired term because there was no second-place finisher in the last election in 2019 to automatically take over the seat. It is the first time this circumstance has occurred since Springfield added ward representatives to the City Council 12 years ago.
Echoing the sentiments voiced by several councilors during the committee meeting Tuesday night, Chairman Melvin Edwards said the decision will be awkward.
"None of us want to disrespect any of the candidates. We certainly respect the residents of Ward 1, " said Edwards. "We are doing the best we can and we hope at the end of this process everyone wll be civil and respect the process."
Five people have applied to be appointed to the Ward 1 seat including Gomez’s father, Gumersindo Gomez, a well-known advocate for veterans; Maria Perez, a member of the School Committee; Hussein Abdi, a college student who co-founded 413Vote; Valerie Gonzalez, a Democratic campaign volunteer; and Blake Grandon, a former manager at the Tap Sports Bar at MGM Springfield.
At a special meeting of the Council next week, each of the candidates will be given five minutes to make a speech and then answer questions from councilors for up to 15 minutes each. The floor is then opened for Councilors to nominate one or more of the candidates followed by a roll call vote on each of the finalists. The first candidate to get seven votes will be sworn in as the new Ward 1 councilor.
The step-by-step process was drafted by City Council President Marcus Williams.
"It just seems very fair and straight to the point hopefully of how we would elect the next Ward 1 Councilor," said Williams.
City Councilor Victor Davila said he and Councilor Mike Fenton plan to introduce an ordinance that in the future would require a special election to fill a vacancy on the council.
"It is what it is at this point," said Davila. "It is a great burden that we will take on humbly."
Councilors said leaving the Ward 1 seat vacant until the end of the year is not an option.
When E. Henry Twiggs died in 2019 with only a few weeks remaining in the council term, his Ward 4 seat was left vacant.