Down a member, Fort Mill Town Council recalls few close votes

jmarks@fortmilltimes.comJuly 7, 2014 

— Fort Mill has a recent history of having to replace Town Council members who leave early.

Last week, Councilman Nathan Blythe resigned from his Ward 1 seat ahead of his family’s move to Hawaii.

Blythe himself came to the council following an early exit in Ward 1, when former Councilman Kerry Mosher left in 2012 to take a promotion in St. Louis.

Mosher came to the council in 2008 to serve the remainder of Councilwoman Guynn Savage’s term, after she moved out of Ward 1. Savage serves now as an at-large member.

“We can function just fine,” said Savage, who began serving when former Councilman Jim Kinard moved out of his ward in 2005. “But I certainly value the input and service of every member.”

The town has other recent experience filling out unexpired terms. Former Councilman Grady Ervin left early in 2008, replaced by Councilman Ronnie Helms.

A 2007 special election replaced the late L.A. Graham with Councilman Larry Huntley.

Current Councilman Tom Adams filed earlier this year to run for the 5thCongressional District seat, currently held by Mick Mulvaney.

A win by Adams this fall would mean another seat to fill in Fort Mill.

A vote short

One of the obvious potential problems of serving a member short, which the council will do until mid-fall, is not likely to happen.

Blythe’s exit means the council will operate with five members plus Mayor Danny Funderburk, meaning a possible six votes – which could create a tie vote over a contentious issue.

The council hasn’t had a 4-3 vote in recent memory. Savage said that the first such vote that comes to mind was a split decision several years ago over whether the town should build its own water treatment plant, but she wasn’t sure even that vote was 4-3.

Huntley brought up that same vote, recalling a 4-3 vote against, which wouldn’t have changed if the council was missing a member since a majority is needed to pass any vote.

“Robert’s Rules of Order requires a majority vote for passage or acceptance of a motion,” said town spokeswoman Kimberly Starnes. “A tied vote does not constitute a majority. Therefore, in a tied situation, the motion fails.”

Even many of the biggest issues in recent years – major new home annexations, Fort Mill Southern Bypass decisions, long-range planning – ended in final, unanimous votes. Savage said it can be confusing for onlookers to see the council coming together to make unified decisions so quickly, because most aren’t aware of the daily attention to and input on issues received by the council.

The biggest loss due to a member leaving, she said, is that decisions get one fewer look as members determine what’s best for the town.

“Having a full council provides us the greatest benefit of multiple opinions on every issue,” Savage said.

Still, short a member, the possibility of a split vote remains. The town Planning Commission recently voted down a proposed townhouse project at Doby’s Bridge and Kimbrell roads, then amended the plan before recommending approval by vote of 4-3. That issue hasn’t come before the council yet.

“That tells you that is going to be somewhat controversial, I think,” Huntley said. “Something like that could be affected.”

What’s next?

The vote to replace Blythe is scheduled for Oct. 7. Results should be certified two days later. If needed, a runoff election would be Oct. 21, with certification two days later.

Filing for the position opens at noon July 25 and runs through noon Aug. 4. Candidates must come from Ward 1 and sign up in person at the registration and elections office at 13 S. Congress St. in York.

The filing fee is $100 for an unopposed candidate; $50 each if there are multiple candidates.

Candidates also must complete a Statement of Intention of Candidacy form. The form can be downloaded from the State Election Commission website at www.scvotes.org.

A Statement of Economic Interest and Campaign Disclosure form must be submitted online with the state ethics commission, at ethics.sc.gov.

Registered voters may cast ballots at their usual polling places. Others have until Sept. 5 to register in person, or register by mail postmarked no later than Sept. 6. The county elections office can answer questions at 803-684-1242.

Remaining council members say they’re hopeful someone, or several people, will see the latest opening as an opportunity to serve Fort Mill and its residents. They’ll also miss Blythe, from his efforts on the council to the soccer fields where Blythe’s son and Huntley’s grandson played together.

“It was a pleasure working with Councilman Blythe for the last two years, and I look forward to working with the next person that is elected to this seat,” Funderburk said.

John Marks •  803-831-8166

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