Kansas Sen.-elect Michael O’Donnell will resign his Wichita City Council seat on Dec. 4, effective Dec. 31, he announced Thursday.
O’Donnell’s resignation to take the District 25 state Senate seat creates a vacancy in the city’s District 4. It could be filled in the April 2 municipal election or earlier by a temporary council appointment.
Although O’Donnell is legally allowed to hold the city and state offices, he said he is leaving his city seat out of concern “for what’s best for the 4th District.”
“I want to thank the residents of District 4 for believing in me and allowing me to serve as their council member, and to serve as a state senator for many of them,” he said in a prepared release.
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O’Donnell said he stepped aside before the first of the year, because that will throw his city council seat open in April by law. Had he waited until his Jan. 14 swear-in date as a state senator, any council appointment would have served the two-plus years remaining on his term.
“It’s not fair to the district to not follow a procedure that will allow the district voters to choose someone quickly,” he said. “I wouldn’t support having someone in my seat not chosen by the voters for two years and some change.”
On Dec. 4, council members will decide whether to temporarily fill O’Donnell’s seat until the April election, or leave it vacant until then. City officials said Thursday in a news release that any temporary member would be selected from a group of candidates who file petitions with the city clerk’s office. O’Donnell said the District 4 advisory board will offer three potential successors for the position as well.
O’Donnell said he hopes the council will move quickly to fill the seat.
“There are several people on the council, like Lavonta Williams and Janet Miller, who came up as neighborhood activists and who I’m sure recognize the detrimental effects of no representation for the 4th District,” O’Donnell said. “I need to make sure that the district is represented.”
O’Donnell also said he doesn’t intend to exact a pledge not to run in April from any temporary successor, as Jim Skelton did in 2010 from Roger Smith. Smith took Skelton’s council seat temporarily when Skelton won election to the Sedgwick County Commission. James Clendenin won the council seat in the general election.
Council member Jeff Longwell said potential votes that require a super-majority of the council, such as zoning cases, make it likely that the council will fill O’Donnell’s seat before the general election.
“By leaving it vacant, if we find ourselves taking up zoning cases, things that require a super-majority vote to move with a protest petition, then we could essentially find ourselves pushing that back until we have a full council,” Longwell said.
Vice Mayor Janet Miller said she’s weighing the options available to the council.
“I haven’t completely decided,” Miller said. “It worked well, I thought, when we immediately filled Skelton’s seat.”
Longwell said he agrees with O’Donnell’s decision to steer clear of an election pledge from his successor.
“That would be good,” he said. “I think the last time was a little unfair for everybody.”
“I think that temporary selection or no, that person ought to be able to run for the rest of the term if they choose,” she said.