Two days after the election, residents of Myrtle Creek still don’t know who will be their mayor or who will fill Position 4 on the city council. And it’s not because the races are too close to call.
Shortly after the deadline to remove her name from the ballot passed, city council candidate Julie Peterson decided she was going to move to Hawaii to be with her daughter and six grandchildren. Peterson, however, received 63 percent of the vote Tuesday, giving her what appeared to be a clear victory over the other candidate, Kathryn Otero, who received 36 percent.
Additionally, no one filed to run for mayor in Myrtle Creek. The position will be filled by the person who received the most write-in votes. Douglas County Clerk Patricia Hitt said the elections office will begin counting the write-in votes on Thursday. The city received 255 write-in votes for mayor.
Myrtle Creek City Recorder Joshua Norton said Thursday morning that the council will declare the seat vacant and begin deliberations about who to appoint at the next city council meeting on Nov. 20. He said anyone interested in the position can come to the meeting and address the council. He didn’t know if the council was likely to appoint Otero, the candidate who also ran for the position.
Norton said the council may or may not appoint someone at the upcoming meeting.
Hitt said that it’s rare for the winner of a city council election to be unable to assume the role. She didn’t know how many times a candidate has decided to move out of town after getting on the ballot.
“Sometimes it’s more like the person isn’t able to do the job anymore for health reasons,” Hitt said.
It’s typical for a city council to appoint someone to a vacant council seat, according to Hitt.
Myrtle Creek city code doesn’t explicitly outline the process for appointing someone to city council in the event that the councilor-elect cannot assume the positons.
Norton needed to consult Oregon state statutes to make sure the council had authority to appoint someone in this case.
Peterson, the candidate who received the most votes for the city council position, said she tried her best to get the message out to people in town that she wouldn’t be able to take the position.
“It was a complete surprise,” Peterson said.
She and her husband are moving out of their house in Myrtle Creek in December, but they have a dog who cannot fly to Hawaii. After they move out, they will look to rent a home in Myrtle Creek or somewhere nearby until their dog passes away.
Peterson, who has lived in Myrtle Creek for three years, said she would consider taking the position until she moved out of town if city council compelled her to. But she said it would be a better option to appoint the other candidate, Otero.
“I think Kathy Otero would make a wonderful city councilwoman,” Peterson said.
Otero said she will be happy to take the position if the city council appoints her.
“I wouldn’t have run for it if I wasn’t willing to do it,” Otero said.