For anyone who might have been considering a run for public office, 2021 may be their best opportunity. Here’s why.
During a normal election year, voters go to the polls to elect three candidates to serve as city council members, one for each ward. The city is divided into three wards and each ward is represented by two council members who serve a four-year term. Basically, one city council seat from each ward is up for grabs every two years.
If 2020 wasn’t strange enough, 2021 may be even stranger when it comes to this year’s election. Voters in two of the three wards will be selecting not one but two council members.
The normal rotation for elections has seats currently held by Ken Koffler from Ward 1, Kysa Rasmussen from Ward 2 and Janet Sergent from Ward 3 on this year’s ballot.
During the most recent election, Dan Smith from Ward 2 chose not to run to retain his seat and no one qualified to fill the vacancy. With no one elected to fill the seat, the task was left up to the city officials, who appointed Kali Godfrey.
Godfrey is in the second year of that term and Montana law dictates that an appointed seat must be placed on the next ballot. That being the case, Godfrey’s seat will be on the ballot with whoever is elected filling the remaining two years of that Ward 2 seat’s term.
Bryan Gartner has resigned his seat in Ward 1 and a replacement is expected to be chosen by city officials at the first meeting in May. As with Godfrey’s Ward 2 seat, the Ward 1 seat vacated by Gartner will also be on the ballot and the successful candidate will serve a two-year term.
This means voters will have the opportunity to choose candidates for five of the six city council seats in Sidney.
It is important to remember that two of the five seats on the ballot will be two-year terms, said City Clerk Jessie Chamberlin.
“Whoever is elected to fill the two seats which are currently filled by appointment will have to run again in two years for a normal four-year term. Then, hopefully, we will be back on track,” said Chamberlin.
It does not necessarily mean there will be five new faces on city council, however. Koffler, Rasmussen and Sergent can qualify to retain their seats as can Godfrey and whoever is appointed to the Ward 1 vacant seat.
Not to be left out, voters from all three wards will also be voting for a mayor as current mayor Rick Norby’s term expires at the end of the year as well. Norby has already qualified to retain his seat. Thus far no one has qualified to challenge him for the job but there is stll plenty of time for someone to throw their hat into the ring.
For anyone considering a run for one of the five seats, the qualifications are few, said Chamberlin.
“You have to be 18-years-old or older, you have to live in the ward you are running in, and you have to have lived in Sidney for at least six months,” she said.
The potential candidate simply goes to city hall, pays the qualifying fee, verify they are fit to run, and the candidate is placed on the ballot for the ward in which they reside. For this year, the candidate must also designate whether they are running for a four-year term seat or a two-year term seat.
When asked what would happen if multiple candidates were to run for one of the two seats in the same ward and no one ran for the other, Chamberlin said she was not sure. “It’s all so unique. I’m not sure if we’ve ever been in this position before.” Chambelin said she hoped that one of the qualified candidates would choose to switch to the seat with no qualified candidates.
Qualifying has already opened in Sidney and will continue for the next several weeks. This means anyone who is considering a run for one of the open council seats or for mayor will have to make the decision fairly soon.
For more information on qualifying for city council, call city hall at 406-433-2809.