Jeff Heuchert, email@example.com
A familiar face is returning to city council to fill the vacant seat left after the passing of Paul Nickel earlier this month.
Former city councillor Howard Famme will fill the position for the remainder of this term until the new council is sworn in after this fall’s municipal election.
“I’m quite excited,” Famme told the Gazette Tuesday morning, “and I feel quite an obligation because Paul Nickel was truly one of the great councillors.”
Famme served one term from 2003-2006, during which time he chaired the finance and labour relations subcommittee, but did not seek re-election in 2010.
He said he’s looking at his new stint on council as a seven-month job only, with no plans of running for a permanent seat in the election.
“I’m happy to help out for a few months, and then I’ll probably go off into the sunset again,” he laughed.
City council declared the council seat vacant Monday evening. That was followed with a brief discussion about how best to fill the position.
Under the provincial Municipal Act, the city has 60 days to fill a position once it has been declared vacant. That can be accomplished either by appointing an individual who consents to office or to hold a by-election. However, a by-election cannot be held after March 31 of an election year.
While staff recommended the city advertise the vacant position for two weeks, and then have council vote on the candidates at an open meeting, a motion to that affect never made it to the floor.
The other alternatives was to appoint the first qualified, non-elected candidate from the 2010 municipal election, in this case, Ron McKay, the former Perth South reeve and Perth County warden who finished approximately 200 votes shy of a seat four years ago. That idea was supported by Coun. Keith Culliton, who suggested McKay deserved “a courtesy call” to see if he was interested, but that idea was also not pursued further.
Famme, a founding partner in Famme & Co. Chartered Accountants, was recommended for the seat by Coun. Brad Beatty, who cited his past experience in municipal politics.
The appointment was supported around the table.
Coun. Tom Clifford called Famme “an excellent candidate,” while Coun. Martin Ritsma suggested Famme would make for a bit easier of a transition given the difficult circumstances.
“I can’t think of a better person to step into (NIckel’s) spot,” he added.
Famme said there are several “key issues” that council could be dealing with in the months ahead that he feels passionate about, and noted he looks forward to “getting my two cents in towards them.”
Chief amongst those is the Erie Street parking lot. Famme said he was “appalled” by one of the preliminary designs that was recently presented by staff that called for a reduction of up to 30 spots, and noted he’s happy staff have gone back for further consultation.
Interestingly, Famme sat on the council that in 2006 decided not to proceed with a proposed parking garage on the Erie lot - an idea that was given new life Monday when council passed a motion to reconsider a parking structure along with other redesigns brought forward by staff.
Famme acknowledged a parking garage was “somewhat unpopular” at the time, but suggested “it could be an important initiative if it was presented properly.”