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Seven people apply to fill Sturgis mayoral vacancy

Seven people apply to fill Sturgis mayoral vacancy

STURGIS, S.D. – Seven people have applied to fill the seat vacated when Sturgis Mayor Mark Carstensen resigned earlier this month.

The applicants are Council members Tony Dargatz, Aaron Jordan and Angela Wilkerson, as well as residents Rod Bradley, Jesse Hauk, Steve Shuck and Jim Thompson.

All applicants, including the council members, will go through a public interview process at the council’s meeting on March 4. The council hopes to make a decision on the appointment at that meeting.

Once the interviews are finished, there will be a paper vote of the council members for the mayoral vacancy, said Sturgis Director of Communications Deb Holland.

She said the city attorney has determined that it is an acceptable addition to council procedure to let those council members who are not present at the meeting vote by text message or e-mail sent to the finance officer that evening.

Also, state law says the “vacancy shall be filled by appointment by a majority vote of the aldermen.” Because the Sturgis City Council consists of eight members, five votes are needed to fill a vacancy in the mayor’s office.

Also, the ballot for each round of voting will contain all nominated candidates unless a candidate withdraws from the contest. The candidate who receives the majority vote of the council members will be declared mayor.

The mayoral appointee chosen will take the oath of office at the March 4 meeting.

At a special meeting Wednesday, Feb. 14, the Sturgis City Council voted unanimously to allow any resident to submit an application, cover letter and resume to be considered for the position of mayor. The deadline to accept applications was set for 5 p.m., Thursday, Feb 29.

Those who submitted applications had to be residents of the city of Sturgis. Current council members could also apply, but they will not have to fill out the application or provide a resume or cover letter.

Under the laws of South Dakota, when a mayor resigns, the City Council President steps into the role of mayor. In this case, that was Sturgis City Council President Beka Zerbst.

Zerbst will serve as the interim mayor until a new mayor has been chosen to fill out the remainder of the term of Carstensen which expires in May of 2025.

Some have questioned why the election of the mayor could not be put on the ballot for the April 9 Sturgis municipal election.

As confirmed by the South Dakota Secretary of State, state law governs filing a vacancy in the office of the mayor, said Sturgis City Attorney Mark Marshall.

Marshall said: “If there is a vacancy from any cause in the office of the mayor, the vacancy shall be filled by appointment by a majority vote of the aldermen, as soon as practicable after the vacancy occurs, to serve until the office is filled by election for the unexpired term at the next annual municipal election or by special election as provided in § 9-13-14.2.”

To complicate matters, by South Dakota state law, the city must have an ordinance in place to allow for a special election to fill the mayor’s post. It does not.

Here is what the state law says about holding a special election: “The governing body of any municipality may, by ordinance enacted prior to the vacancy, require that any vacancy on the governing body or in the office of the mayor is to be filled by a special election called for that purpose to be conducted as provided in § 9-13-14 and this section… No special election may be held less than ninety days before the annual municipal election.”

The next annual municipal election is April 9. The city had already published the vacancies for the city council in January for the April 9 election as required by law. It also included a time period for when those wishing to run could circulate petitions.  But, the mayor’s position was not among those noticed. At this point there is not enough time to meet the statutory requirements to have the mayor’s position on the ballot.

The next annual municipal election is the 2025 election. That is the time when the mayor’s term would have expired had he served the full term.

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