(Independent Photo/Graham Sturgeon)
by Graham Sturgeon, co-editor
The Shiawassee County Board of Commissioners held a special meeting on Thursday, April 4 for the purpose of filling the vacant 2nd District seat on the board, following the death of Commissioner John Horvath, who passed away on Friday, March 29, only three months into his two-year term.
Horvath was elected in November 2018 over candidate Cynthia Farrell, and he took his seat on the board in January 2019. Prior to 2019, Dan McMaster held the 2nd District seat in 2017 and 2018. Horvath previously served on the board as the 2nd District commissioner from January 2013 through December 2016.
The board received four letters of interest for the 2nd District seat, from McMaster, Farrell, Dennis Mahoney and former Owosso City Council member Burton Fox. All four individuals attended the special meeting, with Farrell, Fox and Mahoney all addressing the board. Retired 35th Circuit Court Judge Gerald Lostracco addressed the board to pledge his support for Farrell, and county resident Brian True also spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting.
“I ask that today, as a point of goodwill, and also out of respect for John and his wife and his family, that you table today’s vote until next Thursday, which would, one, give the public enough time to respond, and two, also to provide a bit of decorum and professionalism that I feel is lacking by having this vote less than a week after John’s passing,” shared Mr. True. “For some reason there is a big rush, and if you’re not willing to table it, I want to know why there is such an urgency to fill the seat less than a week after his passing when you have 30 days.”
After hearing the comments from the public, Commissioner Cindy Garber made a motion to appoint Daniel McMaster to fill the 2nd District seat, a motion that was seconded by board chair Jeremy Root. Commissioner Marlene Webster shared that she would not support voting to fill the vacant seat at that time, and she suggested a person other than the four interested candidates temporarily fill the seat until a special election could be held to allow the voters of District 2 to decide the replacement.
Commissioners Root and John Plowman explained to Commissioner Webster that a temporary appointment was not an option, and Commissioner Plowman suggested that he and his fellow board members felt it was important for the board to have seven voting members in advance of the April board meetings, which will take place from Monday, April 8 through Thursday, April 11.
The board voted to approve McMaster’s appointment by a 5 to 1 margin, with Commissioner Webster casting the lone “no” vote.