The appointment of former Wellington Councilman Howard Coates to a seat on the circuit court bench is a loss for the Village of Wellington. Coates was an independent voice and skilled consensus builder on a council that often found itself in the need of a voice of reason and compromise. These are qualities that will serve him well on the bench, but could very well be missing from council deliberations in the future.
There very well could be a new person on the dais by the end of the next Wellington Village Council meeting. Following Coates’ resignation last week, the council has until the middle of February to appoint a successor. Would-be council appointees have been given until Friday, Jan. 23 to submit applications. The applicants will get a chance to briefly address the council on Monday, Jan. 26, and the council will discuss the choices on Tuesday, Jan. 27. If a three-vote majority favors one particular candidate, that person could be on the dais before the night is out. We are not going to recommend any particular person for the job, but we will offer some completely unsolicited advice on what to look for.
While it would be trite to suggest that the council seek out another Howard Coates, it is not a bad idea for the four remaining council members to at least look for the qualities that Coates brought to council discussions when choosing his successor. An independent thinker, Coates was not strongly anchored one way or the other in the quasi-partisan disagreements that have dominated the council over the past several years. This made him someone who could offer outside-the-box compromise ideas that, while not settling all issues, at least often moved the discussion forward.
After a few agonizingly difficult years, the council has been on the right track over the past 18 months. In the coming days, the council could choose an independent voice and keep progress moving forward, perhaps tamping down the stakes of the March 2016 election, or put in a clear partisan, and almost assuredly create a bitterly fought, expensive and community dividing election with four seats in play.
The chess pieces are set up. It’s your move.