Search underway for mayor in Keystone Heights

Eric Cravey
Posted 10/18/17

KEYSTONE HEIGHTS – Beginning Monday, Oct. 23, residents who want to enter public service can apply to become the next mayor of Keystone Heights.

Between Oct. 23 and 4 p.m. on Nov. 3, residents …

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Search underway for mayor in Keystone Heights


KEYSTONE HEIGHTS – Beginning Monday, Oct. 23, residents who want to enter public service can apply to become the next mayor of Keystone Heights.

Between Oct. 23 and 4 p.m. on Nov. 3, residents can apply to replace Mayor Tony Brown who resigned at the Aug. 7 meeting so he could focus on his business. The process was reopened at the Oct. 2 city council meeting when a motion failed to get a majority to appoint Karen Lake as acting mayor to serve until the April 2018 election.

“I’ll tell you right now, I’m going to vote no on both candidates,” said City Council member Dan Lewandowski.

Lewandowski was the first to indicate he wanted to throw out Lake’s application, as well as the application submitted by Catherine Southard, a retired postmaster from Great River, New York. Southard has lived in Keystone Heights a little more than a year, while Lake has lived in the city 15 years.

Before the 2-2 vote to appoint Lake, Acting Mayor Steve Hart opened up the discussion by giving the background on the mayoral appointment process, which was met with opposition from Lewandowski and council member Steve Brown.

Lewandowski asked if the application process could be opened a second time. He said that he had fielded complaints from residents who said there was not enough time to apply for the position the first time.

“Do we not have another course of action possible here? Can we not also open it up for applications again if we do not believe there was sufficient time allowed the first time and open it up to get more applications so we have more applicants coming in,” Lewandowski said.

Hart referred to Lewandowski’s request as hypothetical.

“We set the process in motion to do what we’re doing tonight and if we’re going to change and expand the time period we probably would need a motion to reconsider,” Hart said.

Lewandowski made a motion to reconsider what council did at its last meeting. His motion was seconded by Brown. Lewandowski said he was hoping for six candidate applications for the mayor’s seat and said both Southard and Lake applied “at the last minute.”

“As it turns out, both candidates that did apply, applied on the afternoon of the very last day. So, even the two that did apply, waited till the very end of the process to do so. I want this city to be led by the best possible candidate and not someone who, how do I say this, not someone who just happened to be at the right place at the right time,” Lewandowski said.

In voicing his opposition to the two candidates, Brown said he had voters ask him if the first process had conducted legally and questioned whether the window for turning in applications had been long enough.

“I hate this. Just to be honest, I hate it because each one of us up here, you know, you, me, we were elected by the people and whatever we do up here at the end of the day that’s who’s going to hold us responsible, that’s who we answer to. And, this being the mayor position, who are they going to answer to because the people didn’t put them in it, we do,” Brown said.

Leading the meeting and trying to convince his colleagues to respect the original process, Hart said the two candidates who applied to be mayor should be heard. Council members proceeded to ask prepared questions to both Southard and Lake despite Lewandowski’s and Brown’s desire to scrap the process.

“My opinion is this – we have two people who took the time to fill out applications and both have unique backgrounds. Whether or not they would fit with the city, that’s something we can find out, do our due diligence. I think in fairness to the candidates, I think we need to go forward with this process, so when this motion comes to a vote, I will vote no only because I think we need to moving and take this straight ahead.” Hart said.

South told council members she is the best candidate for the job despite never having attended a city council meeting before.

“I have a pension, so I don’t need the money,” Southard said. “I want people to know me. I want to go through town and tell people, ‘I’m the mayor. What can I do for?’,” she said. I am here for you.”

Meanwhile, Lake, who runs the Keystone Heights Watson Center for Santa Fe State College, has been civically-engaged for years. She has served on the Our Country Day committee, which puts on the annual Independence Day celebration, the city and county Charter Review Commission, the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission and the city’s Growth Management Committee. She is also the point person for her Rotary Club’s Empty Bowls program that helps provide holidays meals for the needy in partnership with Lake Area Ministries.

“It’s safe to say that I do love my town and I am not afraid to commit to the work,” Lake said.

City hall is accepting applications for mayor until Nov. 3 with the goal of selecting an acting mayor at Nov. 20 regular city council meeting.


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