Commission could name interim senator

Xavier Smith • Sep 15, 2017 at 12:12 PM

The Wilson County Commission will discuss an appointment to fill the vacant seat in the state Senate on Monday after Mae Beavers resigned the seat last month.

Beavers submitted her resignation letter to Gov. Bill Haslam to focus on her run for the Republican nomination for governor in the 2018 election. Her resignation left a void in her District 17 seat.

The state Constitution allows the Wilson County Commission, if it chooses, to appoint a person to fill the vacant Senate seat until someone is elected in the special election. Should the commission choose not to nominate an individual to fill the vacancy until the special election, the seat will remain vacant until voters select a new senator. A notice was issued Sept. 8 to serve as the seven-day advanced public notice prior to Monday’s commission meeting where nominations will be accepted and voted upon, if the commission chooses to nominate someone to fill the vacant seat.

“A democracy requires participation to be a successful form of government,” said Wilson County Mayor Randall Hutto. “Part of being a good leader within a democracy is being transparent about the elections and decisions that will affect the citizens of a community, so that citizens are well informed. As county mayor, I have a responsibility to keep the citizens of Wilson County informed of upcoming elections and decisions that happen on a local and state level. In an effort to keep Wilson County government completely transparent, I felt it necessary to address the recent developments regarding a special election that will be happening in our county in December, as well as the process that accompanies that election.”

According to the state Constitution, the Wilson County Commission could accept nominations for an interim senator that would represent District 17, although the group is not required to appoint a replacement.

Procedure for the commission meeting will be to first poll commissioners to determine whether they want to fill the vacant Senate seat. If the vote fails, the commission will move on to the rest of the agenda, and no interim will be placed until a senator is elected Dec. 19.

If the commission chooses to appoint an interim, it will go out of session and allow for public comments to begin. At that time, the public will be allowed to submit names to commissioners of whom they would like to see as the interim senator until a senator is elected. After the public comments period ends, the commission will then return to regular session and review the nominations given during the public comments period. At that time, commissioners will begin making their nominations for an interim senator. Though public comments will be accepted and considered, only commissioners will make official nominations.

A commissioner can nominate an individual recommended by the public, providing the individual nominated agrees in writing to serve if elected. A commissioner can, however, choose to nominate a person not discussed during the public comments period. Should a commissioner nominate someone not present at the Sept. 18 commission meeting, the commissioner who makes the nomination must present a signed statement by the nominee that he or she is willing to serve should the commission approve the nominee. There is no second required to the nominations.

After nominations end, those nominated will be given an opportunity to address the commission. Nominees will be asked to make a brief statement about themselves and why they seek the position. There will be no public comments period after nominations are submitted.

Commissioners will only be allowed to vote on an interim senator. Commissioners will use paper ballots to vote. It will take a majority vote of at least 13 votes to fill the vacancy. Should no one person receive 13 votes on the first ballot, or if there is a tie between two nominees, the nominees with the lowest number of votes will be eliminated and a second vote will be taken. The process will continue until one individual receives a majority 13 votes. Once an interim senator is appointed, he or she will serve in the interim position until Dec. 19, the day of the special election. 

Primaries will be Nov. 7, and the General Election will be Dec. 19. Both elections will be in Wilson, Cannon, DeKalb, Smith, Clay and Macon counties that make up the 17th Senate District.

In other business, the commission is expected to consider:

• a $300,000 donation to Empower Me Camp

• line-item budget transfers in the Wilson County Emergency Management Agency, Ag Center and Tourism departments.

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