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Houghton Council fails to fill seat

The Houghton City Council will have just six members until a special election in May. Eight candidates threw their hat in the ring to be considered at Wednesday night’s meeting to replace Dan Salo, but the group could not make a decision. The seating process has multiple steps. First, a roll call is made with councilors required to nominate each candidate officially for consideration. Each nomination must then be supported by another member.

Of the eight involved, five were selected by the council and debate began. The process was set to play out for up to three rounds. If in the first round one candidate was supported by more members than all others, it would have been over. If a tie occurred, two or more getting the same number of yes votes, then it advanced to another round. The council had three opportunities to make a decision, but failed. All five candidates received an equal number of yes votes (3). No councilor switched how they voted throughout the three rounds. Councilors could vote yes on anyone they felt was worthy.

The divide was centered over whether the seat should be filled by someone seasoned in local politics or a fresh face. Councilor Mike Needham suggested that Houghton-Portage Township Board of Education member Brad Baltensperger apply during a private conversation. Robert Megowan also favored Baltensperger.

I think it’s important to have experience working with boards, working with lots of people, and working with the state and federal governments. I think Brad has a lot of experience in that he has been on the school board for many years, and works with the public very well. Ask any teacher, superintendent, principal, police officer…this gentleman loves his community.

Member Joan Suits said experience was not the only factor to be considered.

I guess in terms of what I am looking for someone on council, I would like to see some new faces. On the other hand I would like to see someone who has shown an interest in coming to the meetings consistently and tried to be a part of the public input process.

The special election will be held May 3rd and the winner will fill the open seat until November 2022. It is not limited to the eight people who applied for consideration this week. The City of Houghton lists requirements for council members on its website. Clerk Ann Vollrath estimates that the process will cost around $7,000.

With only six members, there is no tiebreaking vote on contentious issues. Needham and councilor Jan Cole both expressed hope that everyone would be able to come together to ensure work can be completed in the meantime.

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