Planner chosen to serve on town council

The Warren Sentinel

FRONT ROYAL — A town Planning Commission member has been chosen to fill the Town Council vacancy, but not without some discussion among his new colleagues.

By a 4-1 vote, Chris Morrison was chosen Monday night to fill the remainder of Hollis Tharpeís term on council. Tharpe relinquished his seat upon becoming mayor Jan. 1.

Vice Mayor Gene Tewalt cast the dissenting vote, saying council should have chosen Mike McCool, the fourth-place finisher in the November election. There were five candidates seeking three seats. Tharpe's election as mayor created the fourth open seat.

"Mr. McCool got almost as many votes as our third-place finisher," said Tewalt, holding up a copy of the Nov. 10, 2016, Warren Sentinel, which featured a large display of the town election results.

McCool received 2,199 votes in the election, 278 votes less than Councilman Jacob Meza, who finished third.

"To me it's a slap in the face to our 2,200 voters that voted for Mr. McCool," Tewalt said.

Tewalt said he had nothing against Morrison, calling him ìmore than qualifiedî for the position, but said McCool should have been appointed.

While Tewalt and some town residents supported appointing the recent fourth-place finisher, the town was not required to do so. Council had the option of appointing anyone it deems worthy, scheduling a special election, or letting 45 days pass and allowing a Warren County Circuit Court judge to appoint a replacement.

Council chose to interview candidates and make its own appointment. Nine candidates, including McCool, interviewed to fill the vacancy.

Tewalt said the conversation might have been different had the town opted for a special election.

Councilman John P. Connolly said the opening brought out an impressive crop of candidates, but noted that Morrison will be coming from the Planning Commission and is very familiar with town projects.

Meza was appointed from the Planning Commission last year to fill Daryl Funkís unexpired term before winning a term of his own in November.

McCool also is a former member of the Planning Commission and has regularly attended council meetings as a private citizen.

Councilwoman BÈbhinn Egger said Morrison was not her first choice but also that McCool shouldnít necessarily have been chosen simply because of his finishing in the election.

She added that Morrison is a qualified candidate.

Morrison was not present Monday night.

Meza thanked the nine candidates for interviewing for the opening.

"It was really exciting to see the different backgrounds and the different people who showed up that have taken an interest in this town," he said.

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