In response to the resignation of alder-elect Jessy Tolkan from the District 5 seat on the Madison City Council in April, the council filled the vacant seat June 5 by the appointment of District 5 County Board Supervisor Tom Powell.
Although the Common Council Organization Committee had recommended UW graduate student Winn Collins to the position, Powell was ultimately chosen to fill the vacancy when Collins withdrew his name, said City Council President Pro Tem Ald. Mike Verveer, District 4.
“It has long been City Council tradition to appoint the county supervisor of the vacant district to the post,” Verveer said. “[And Powell] has been elected overwhelmingly twice by 5th District residents. Tom knows his district; his district knows him.”
Powell will hold the District 5 seat for 10 months, until a special election is held in April 2002.
Under normal conditions, City Council members serve two-year terms.
Powell said he opted to fill the vacancy because he has been thoroughly familiarized with how city government works through his experience as a county board supervisor.
“Since the position will only be for ten months they needed somebody to be able to hit the ground running,” Powell said. “The learning curve for this is intensive. By the time you know how to write legislation and how to get it passed, those ten months are up. A lot of that base information I already had.”
Powell said he is not interested in running for the District 5 City Council position next year.
Originally, four candidates formally applied for the vacant position, including both Collins and Powell. At a special meeting conducted by the CCOC May 29, Collins was narrowly selected for recommendation to the full Council, and despite Collins’ previous letter of withdrawal, a motion was made at the June 5 meeting for Collins to fill the position. However, the vote failed and a narrow majority elected Powell, said District 12 Ald. Dorothy Borchardt.
Powell said as a city council member, he hopes to be able to introduce some legislation he has been working on including affordable housing and fair housing issues.
“[I will] have much more power — to change tenant/landlord laws than I do on the county [board],” he said.
The scurry to fill the seat draws some closure to a case sparked when Tolkan stepped down from the seat, but the district will not receive a permanent alder until the special election next spring.