Preparations are in place to fill the seat of Councilmember Sabra Briere (D-Ward 1) after she steps down in December. After nine years in office, Briere announced her intention to resign last week.
Briere has been an Ann Arbor resident since 1973 and the Ward 1 representative for City Council since 2007, making her the longest-seated current council member. On Nov. 7, Briere published an online letter announcing her plans to resign. She stated in the letter that she is resigning to move with her husband to Santa Rosa, Calif. to be closer to their son.
Though Ann Arbor’s city charter states the council must appoint a replacement to fill Briere’s seat within 30 days of the vacancy, Briere pointed out in an interview there is no mention in the rules of how the council gets news of the vacancy or fills the vacancy, just that it must be filled. When Briere finalized her decision to move to California, she said she promptly began working with city officials to create a plan for filling her soon-to-be vacant spot, minimizing the amount of disruption that would ensue.
“In other situations in the past, people have moved and resigned but because I have full warning and I’m the kind of person I am, when I understood that my son was successful in purchasing the house and I had a basic idea of when I would move, I worked with the mayor and the city administrator and the city attorney to create a reasonable process proposal, and council then looked at that process proposal and improved it,” Briere said.
People interested in filling the vacancy have until 2 p.m. on Nov. 23 to complete an online application. On Nov. 28, the council will interview all applicants individually.
Briere said the administration committee, which is a subgroup of the council, is currently deciding on a series of interview questions to ask applicants, which will be made public by Nov. 23.
At the Dec. 5 council meeting, Briere will offer a resolution declaring her resignation, creating a vacancy and stepping away from the table to allow council members to discuss who should fill the seat.
Ward 1 resident Jeffrey Hayner, who ran for the City Council seat in 2013, said he is currently deciding if he will apply for the vacancy, but hopes the position will be filled by someone who represents the community voice.
“Sabra has done so much to promote community involvement and participation, so I really want to make sure that seat goes to whoever it is that can keep some of that going,” Hayner said. “It’s important.”
Hayner also said he is concerned that this position will be appointed rather than taken to a public vote, especially following the city’s recent vote to move to four-year term lengths.
“I haven’t read what the clerk has to say yet, but I followed some of it when they were discussing it,” Hayner said. “I don’t love it because appointments always lend themselves to abuse of the majority.”
Briere said she hopes the opportunity to apply for this position will attract a different pool of candidates than those who would run in an election against an incumbent.
“It is my hope that a number of people will apply who are supremely qualified, but whose names have never appeared on a ballot.”