by Brian Jones
The Caledonia Board of Aldermen appointed Judy Whitcomb to the position of interim town clerk during an April 17 special meeting, bringing the town clerk’s position back to square one.
Under state law, the town must have a town clerk in place by a certain number of days before the election to handle absentee voting. Following the resignation of Interim Town Clerk Krista Hill – who replaced Whitcomb following her retirement at the end of January – the town did not have a clerk in place. Missy Duncan was hired earlier this month to answer the phone, and Whitcomb was hired on a temporary basis to come in for not more than 10 hours a week to help out as needed.
The stopgap measure did not last long. At a stormy April 9 special meeting, Mayor George Gerhart announced that Duncan could not handle money because she was not bonded and further stated that he was unwilling to stay at town hall during business hours to do so. The board took no action at the time.
Wednesday night the board held a call meeting to discuss hiring a replacement for Hill.
Town Attorney Jeff Smith explained that a clerk must be in place as son as possible because of the upcoming election.
“In city government, the registrar is the town clerk,” Smith said. “We don’t really have a town clerk. You have to start your absentee ballot registrations on Monday, so you need to have someone in place. Legally you’re supposed to have someone here during your regular hours five days a week.”
The issue was somewhat complicated by the fact that the would-be clerk must be someone who has attended a training session put on by the secretary of state’s office. Whitcomb and Lena Mae Duncan were the only two people available.
“Your pool of who you can hire is pretty slim,” Smith said.
Election Commissioner Ken Byars said, “I talked to Lena Mae to see if she would be available to fill in in case the clerk is sick. We know that Judith has some health problems, and we need to cover for that. [Duncan] said she would be willing to be an alternate.”
“(Whitcomb) is already here for two hours,” said Alderwoman Brenda Willis. “This would just be for two more.”
“What about notarizing?” Gerhart asked. “The state auditor told me that if she resigned she lost her notary.”
“That’s not right,” Smith said. “Her notary has an expiration date and is good until that time.”
The board hired Whitcomb unanimously on a motion from Willis and a second from Mike Savage.
Whitcomb will start immediately and serve until the incoming board hires a new clerk.
Byars asked to speak at the end of the meeting.
“Well, the meeting’s over now,” Gerhart said. “Oh, wait, Mr. Byars, you go ahead. I’m going to be as nice as I can be so I don’t make the paper this week.”
“I really appreciate this meeting tonight,” Byars said. “If we didn’t accomplish what we accomplished tonight, we wouldn’t be able to have an election.”
Park Director Hired?
The board held another special meeting April 23 to discuss hiring a park director.
The aldermen met April 9 to interview six applicants for the position. At that meeting they culled the list down to three, which they brought back for a second interview April 23.
The interviews were conducted in executive session. After the board returned to open session, Town Attorney Jeff Smith announced that the board had voted to offer the job to one of the candidates, but no announcement would be made until the offer was accepted.