Council at odds over next member

By Thomas Wilson
STAR STAFF
twilson@starhq.com

   The Elizabethton City Council is short one member.
   Who and when the city's legislative leadership will add to their ranks remains a mystery.
   At Wednesday's City Council meeting, Councilwoman Nancy Alsup moved to hold a special meeting next week to consider appointing a new council member to serve for the late Diane Morris who died last week. However, Mayor Sam LaPorte said he would be out of town and unable to attend any meeting next week except on Monday.
   "That's why we have a mayor pro tem," Alsup stated. "That's the purpose of the mayor pro tem."
   Councilman Richard Sammons said that given the magnitude of appointing a citizen to the council, the decision should be made with the city's mayor in attendance.
   "I can't see the decision being made without the person named as the mayor of this council being involved," said Sammons.
   Councilman Pat "Red" Bowers initially seconded but later withdrew his second to Alsup's motion, which subsequently failed. No other commissioners moved to call a meeting to appoint a new commissioner.
   After the meeting, Alsup said she felt the position should be filled as quickly as possible. She also named the citizen she supported to fill the seat.
   "I support Mr. Sid Cox," she said.
   If the 2002 city election results are any indication, at least 1,616 registered voters agree with Alsup.
   Cox won an enormous share of the popular vote in the November 5, 2002 city election with 1,616 votes to 1,618 votes for Morris, who won the fourth and final seat on the council. Cox spent four years as a Carter County commission member and 10 years as director of finance with the city.
   "I'm not just supporting him because of how he finished in the election," said Alsup. "He did not ask for a recount and he has been a gentleman about the election.
   "When I ran for City Council in 1996, I vowed I would be a voice of the people. I have tried to do that in the past, and I'm trying to do that now."
   LaPorte declined to discuss possible candidates or the open council seat after the meeting except to say, "There is a lengthy debate going on into who should be appointed."
   Morris died on Feb. 10 a little more than three months after being elected to her second term on the council. According to state law, the council has 30 days to appoint a citizen to serve until the next city or county election is held.
   If the council does not appoint a new member within the 30-day window, the mayor can appoint a citizen of his choice to serve out the term, according to state law.
   The person appointed as the new council member will serve until the next county election scheduled for Aug. 5, 2004. At that time, candidates may vie for the seat as an open council seat.