Does the number of appointed officials affect Black Mountain? Ryan Stone says yes.
BLACK MOUNTAIN - Black Mountain’s town charter should be a living document, alderman Ryan Stone says.
Concerns over recent appointments to the Board of Aldermen has Stone and candidates running for the board’s three open seats in November’s election considering amendments to the document.
Currently, four of six Board of Aldermen seats have been appointed.
“I feel it deprives people of their right to have a representative government,” Stone said. While he holds nothing against the board or those appointed, he says he wants a more in-depth appointment process.
That begins with amending the charter to “make sure that it’s reflective of what our concerns are today.”
Article 2, section 4 of the charter states if a vacancy occurs in the office of mayor or alderman, “it shall be filled for the remainder of the unexpired term by the remaining members of the board of aldermen.”
Archie Pertiller Jr. and Larry Harris were appointed Aug. 10 to the seats of alderman and mayor, respectively, with Pertiller assuming Harris' open seat. Jennifer Willet was appointed in March earlier this year while Tim Raines was appointed in 2018.
Raines will have served the longest term as an appointed alderman, with a fourth year added by the town’s 2018 decision and the Senate’s 2019 approval to move elections to even-numbered years. Both Pertiller and Willet must be reelected to remain on the board.
Harris supported the board's current appointment process and said it followed the same process to appoint Willet and Pertiller.
“We were presented with a list of candidates of those interested in the position, though Pertiller filed as a running candidate, and we had a discussion of who to choose in both cases,” Harris said.
Harris, who was first appointed to the board in 2013 before being reelected in 2015, will serve as mayor until 2022 per the charter’s terms in filling former mayor Don Collins’ term.
Cumulatively, by 2022, Harris will have served four years as an appointed official and an extended five-year term as elected. Having been elected in 2015 as alderman, Harris would have sought reelection in 2020.
He defended the board’s appointment process, adding that if there were any public concerns, November’s election provides an opportunity to hold the board accountable.
Referring to an Asheville City Council July decision to appoint a replacement for city council member Vijay Kapoor, he added that the board had followed procedure and precedent.
“The charter says that the board shall appoint any vacancy, and we fulfilled our duty to do so,” Harris said.
Willet’s appointment was preceded by a community sign-up process followed by a discussion among the board, Harris said. Pertiller was one of nine candidates who filed for the alderman election and was chosen by the board from the list of nine.
Changing the charter
Doug Hay, one of nine listed as candidates for the open alderman seats, agrees that the upcoming election is an opportunity.
“If we can elect three strong candidates, and that means four out of the five members will be elected by the people, it will truly represent the people,” Hay said.
The three seats available in the election include seats currently held by Pertiller, Willet and vice mayor Maggie Tuttle.
Stone said that he is hopeful to discuss changing the language of the town charter in December when newly elected board members assume their seats.
“It still has a lot of the vestiges of the old board requirements where everyone served to two-year terms and everyone was on the same election cycle,” Stone said. “For the appointments, it just says that the board shall appoint. I’d like to see it specify a process, a process that includes public input and a public selection.”
Harris said that some language in the charter is “out-of-date,” and he would discuss amendments if it was the board's decision to do so.
"We are held accountable through elections," Harris said. "I believe that Black Mountain will choose who they believe will most represent this community."