To the editor:
I am writing in response to Nelson Benton’s column of Sept. 21. In analyzing a potential vacancy on the Salem City Council, Mr. Benton writes that councilors supporting Steve Pinto for the vacancy would have to explain why they are breaking with a supposed tradition calling for the vacancy to be filled with the next runner-up in the previous election. This statement by him ignores previous selections for vacancies.
In 2006, there was a vacancy following Michael Bencal’s resignation from the council. As runner-up in the election, I put my name forward for consideration on the basis of my qualifications for office, along with several others who did not run. Only one councilor, Thomas Furey, cited said tradition and cast a vote for me. The others voted for the councilor they felt was most qualified. I had no problem with this process, as it was my belief that, should the city have wanted the runner-up to be automatically chosen, the charter could have reflected this.
Should there be a vacancy now, councilors should be free to vote their conscience and vote for the individual they feel would be best for the job. Both Mr. Pinto and Mr. Barcikowski put their names on the ballot and ran credible campaigns for the City Council. Both are well-qualified and would bring different sets of skills and experiences to the council. Councilors should consider the merits of their candidacies, not a made-up “tradition” if they have to make a choice.
James R. Willis Jr.