Field set for city council vacancy

By Tom Joyce

February 7, 2014

The deadline passed Friday afternoon for Mount Airy residents to indicate their interest in filling a vacancy on the city council, resulting in 10 candidates seeking to replace the late Scott Graham.

That included some late entries Friday, from Bill Clark and Joshua Witt.

Candidates were required to submit a notice — by mail, email, fax or in person — to the Municipal Building by 5 p.m. Friday stating their willingness to fill the at-large commissioner vacancy. They did so under a process approved by the remaining four board members on Jan. 16, two weeks after Graham died from cancer at age 64.

Graham was at the midway point of a four-term term as at-large commissioner, which one of the candidates will be selected to serve out when the commissioners next meet on Feb. 20. Since the at-large council slot was involved, as opposed to seats designated by wards, residents throughout the city limits were eligible to seek the position.

The same open application process was used to fill two previous vacancies on the board in 2008 and 2009.

Clark, who submitted his notice Friday afternoon, is a son of a former mayor of Mount Airy, Ed Clark, who served in the 1960s. In 2007, Bill Clark ran unsuccessfully for a South Ward commissioner seat then held by Todd Harris.

No biographical information was available for Witt, the other person tossing his hat into the ring for the council seat Friday afternoon.

Earlier this week, three other commissioner-hopefuls had come forward in addition to others previously announced, including:

• Timothy DeVore, who has many years of experience as a business consultant;

• Paul Eich, an unsuccessful candidate for Mount Airy mayor in 2011. Eich is a retiree who is the former owner of a heating and air conditioning business and holds advanced degrees in management and chemical engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology;

• Marie Wood, a longtime local resident who has an accounting background.

In the previous two weeks, five other people had submitted applications after the process began on Jan. 17.

They were:

• Jim Armbrister, a retired community services officer with the Mount Airy Police Department;

• Allen Burton, a former member of the Mount Airy Board of Education who is retired from the automotive field, in which he held positions such as sales manager. Burton also has served on a committee spearheading Mount Airy’s successful effort to become a state-certified retirement community;

• Ken Klamfoth, best known as the head of the Mount Airy Recycling Advisory Committee, who is the vice president and owner of AdvantaClean of the Triad;

• Gail Proffitt, who operates a local cleaning business and was an unsuccessful candidate for at-large commissioner in 2011 when Graham won the seat;

• Bruce Springthorpe, another candidate for at-large commissioner in 2011, who came in second in a three-person primary and then lost to Graham in the general election. Springthorpe’s work experience includes being self-employed in the computer database-development field and founding SouthData Inc. in Mount Airy.

In 2008, when the board filled a vacancy caused by the resignation of Commissioner Tom Bagnal, 12 citizens applied, leading to the selection of Jon Cawley for the board. Another opening the next year attracted five candidates hoping to replace Deborah Cochran after she was elected mayor, leading to Teresa Lewis joining the council as its at-large member. Lewis declined to seek re-election for that seat when its term ended, leading to Graham’s successful candidacy.

During the Feb. 20 commissioners meeting, all applicants for the latest vacancy will be allowed to speak for up to 10 minutes to summarize their qualifications and explain why they want to serve on the board.

The council also will have an opportunity to ask them questions. This will be followed by the commissioners making choices on a tally sheet. The person who receives the majority of the votes will win the seat, with a tie-breaking procedure built in to the process.

That individual will be sworn in to Graham’s unexpired term during another meeting on March 6.

Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-719-1924 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.