Ald. Donna Moreland resigns, city calls for applications for interim alder

Special election unlikely as entire city council up for election in April 2021, alder says

· Oct 22, 2020 Tweet

Lauren Henning/The Badger Herald

Madison Ald. Donna Moreland, District 7, resigned from her position during a city council meeting Sept. 29, and the City of Madison is currently looking for an interim alder to serve for the rest of her term until April 20, 2021.

In a recent press release, city council leadership said Moreland joined the council in April 2019 and served as the chair of the Alder Workgroup to Develop Logistics & Operational Details for MPD Independent Civilian Oversight. According to the press release, Common Council President Sheri Carter will oversee the application process to fill the vacancy left after Moreland’s resignation.

Ald. Mike Verveer, District 4, said the process of filling a vacant position left by an alder is governed by Wisconsin state statute, which gives the city several options. The city council could appoint a successor, and Verveer said the current plan holds that an interim alder will serve until the next election in April.

Verveer said Madison could also leave the seat vacant until the spring of 2021. The city can also call a special election, however, doing so would cost the city financially.

“Given that there will be an election already in April, I don’t think it was seriously considered that we call a special election considering that we are obviously in the midst of an election now, folks rolling early for the Nov. 3 presidential election,” Verveer said.

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In a meeting Oct. 6, the Common Council Executive Committee decided to accept applications for the interim alderperson position and to seat the next alder on the council by Nov. 17.

Verveer said as of early October, no applications were submitted, and in the past, Madison had a “tradition” of appointing a former alder to serve as an interim alder if they are interested, but Moreland’s immediate past predecessor is currently “out of town” and will be so for the next few months.

Verveer said it is unlikely a former alder will fill Moreland’s seat in the interim. Verveer said vacancies are a relatively common occurrence in Madison.

“My experience when we have had these vacancies is that there is a fair amount of interest and folks that are interested in serving even if it’s on an interim basis,” Verveer said. “If one is interested in serving on the city council for a longer period of time, we actually encourage those candidates to not apply to the position because there is a strong tradition on the Madison City Council of not appointing an interim alder [who] does not pledge to not run in the next election for that seat, the rationale being that it provides an unfair advantage to that alderperson [who] is appointed.”

Verveer said the city prefers to appoint an individual for a “caretaker role,” to provide the advantage of incumbency to a candidate who is not elected by the voters in the district they represent, but rather appointed by the city council.

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A city seat was vacated before its full term is District 8 in Sept. 2019, which covers the University of Wisconsin campus area. Max Prestigiacomo, UW student and current alder for District 8, was an applicant for the position, but the City Council appointed UW student Sally Rohrer while Max ran in the special election and was elected unopposed, Verveer said.

“One of the questions we always ask … is, ‘Do you plan to run in the next election?’ and one person [who] pledged not to run in that election was a student named Sally Rohrer,” Verveer said. “Max Prestigiacomo also applied to that position but was not recommended because he honestly said that he wished to run in the special election in April 2020, so Sally was appointed and served with distinction for that time.”

Verveer said a factor in the city’s decision not to call a special election is because the entire city council will be up for election in April 2021.

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Verveer said Moreland played a key role in numerous decisions and served on several committees — including the Finance Committee. Ald. Shiva Bidar, District 5, has replaced Moreland on the Finance Committee for now.

“I’m going to serve the rest of her term on the Finance Committee,” Bidar said. “But she will be missed — without a doubt.”

 The City of Madison is accepting applications for the position until Oct. 21 at 4:30 p.m.

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