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Rogers council vacancy shifts from Ward 1 to Ward 4

by Doug Thompson | May 17, 2023 at 6:00 a.m.
Betsy Reithemeyer

ROGERS -- Ward 4 City Council member Betsy Reithemeyer became a Ward 1 council member Tuesday morning.

Reithemeyer didn't move to Ward 1. Ward 1 moved to her.

The shuffle began May 1 with the death of Mark Kruger, 75, the council's longest-serving member. Kruger represented Ward 1 in the Position 2 seat. Two council members represent each of the city's four wards.

The council decided to adopt new ward maps before replacing Kruger. Ward maps are redrawn after each U.S. census to equalize ward populations. The federal government conducts a census every 10 years. Figures from the 2020 census were not available in time to redraw lines before the 2022 election.

The council decided to adopt new ward boundaries now, far in advance of 2024 candidate filings, before replacing Kruger. This ensured Kruger's replacement would live in Ward 1.

The council adopted new boundaries in a special meeting Monday. Those new boundaries put Reithemeyer's home in Ward 1, in the northeast part of the city. Ward 4 covers southeast Rogers.

The council had two options under Arkansas law to replace Kruger: appoint someone by majority vote of the council or schedule a special election. Council members run in citywide elections, but the ward system ensures different portions of the city have representation on the eight-member governing body.

The council held another special meeting at 8 a.m. Tuesday to decide. They appointed Reithemeyer to the Ward 1 vacancy. Reithemeyer will resign as a Ward 4 member, creating a vacancy there. The motion to appoint Reithemeyer passed without dissent with Reithemeyer abstaining from the vote.

Reithemeyer will fill the unexpired portion of Kruger's term, which runs through 2024. Reithemeyer's term would also have expired on the same day had she still resided in Ward 4 with the new boundaries. She remains eligible to run for reelection.

Now the council must decide whether to appoint a successor to Reithemeyer or hold a special election to fill the Ward 4 seat. First the council must declare the Ward 4 seat vacant. State law requires any vacancy declaration to take place only at a regularly scheduled council meeting. The next regular meeting is May 23.

The council must then either appoint someone to fill a vacancy at the next regular meeting after a vacancy is declared or schedule a special election, John Pesek, staff attorney for the city, advised the council.

Mandy Brashear, a council member in Ward 1, protested, saying the council could not do justice to everyone who may want consideration for appointment between May 23 and the regularly scheduled meeting of June 13.

State law says an appointment to fill a vacancy must be made at the next regular meeting after a vacancy is declared, Pesek told the council at Monday's meeting. The law, however, doesn't specify any penalty if the council takes longer, he said.

"I don't see the legal peril of taking longer," he said.

The lack of potential consequences doesn't change the letter of the law, replied Barney Hayes, a Ward 4 council member.

"The law is written folks, and we need to follow the law as best we can," Hayes said during the discussion.

A special election remains an alternative if the council isn't willing to make an appointment under the deadline given by the law, Mayor Greg Hines said. The earliest possible date for a special election would be Aug. 8, Benton County Election Coordinator Kimberly Dennison said Tuesday. The council would have to decide by May 30 to organize an election in August; any later and the next available date would be Nov. 13 because of restrictions in state law, she said.

The council set a deadline of noon June 2 for anyone wanting to apply for the appointment to fill the Ward 4 vacancy. Four members -- Hayes, Gary Townzen, Marge Wolf and Clay Kendall -- voted for the deadline motion, while Brashear and April Legere voted against it. Reithemeyer abstained.

The procedure for applying to fill the vacancy is not announced yet, city public relations manager Peter Masonis said Tuesday afternoon. The process cannot begin until the city declares a vacancy, he said.

Rogers City Council

Rogers City Council webpage with links to council members and the new city ward map:


Print Headline: Rogers council vacancy shifts


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