Indian Trail looks set to promote election runner-up

INDIAN TRAIL – Local residents and a former political opponent worked this week to resurrect the political campaign of David Drehs by asking for his appointment to a soon-to-open spot on the Indian Trail Town Council.

Leaders in Indian Trail voted 3-2 on Tuesday, Jan. 14, to unofficially fill the seat of outgoing Councilman David Waddell with Drehs, who came in third in the November 2013 election behind now-Councilmen Gordon Daniels and Gary Savoie with 513 votes. Drehs’s
appointment won’t be official until February, once Waddell vacates his seat and the council votes again on the matter. It is possible they could change course and vote someone else into the spot, or to open the seat up for applications, once Waddell leaves. Waddell cannot rescind his resignation.

Those speaking in favor of appointing Drehs described him Tuesday night as a kind, moral man who had proven himself ready for a leadership position beyond the town committee work he already does in Indian Trail. Drehs served in the U.S. Army for 22 years, is a small business owner and was a Scoutmaster for 11 years at Bethel United Methodist Church.

“David Drehs is by far the best choice candidate,” Michael Faulkenberry, who came in fifth in the November election, told council. Others spoke in favor of Drehs, while at least two other town advocates – Chip Long and Jan Brown – were mentioned as possible candidates for the seat.

Drehs spoke Tuesday night, expressing his interest in the position. He thanked others who spoke in his favor, and said the support of those people and everyone he met while working hard on the campaign trail is reason enough to push for his appointment now.

“Shame on me if I’m not willing to work that hard again” to get the seat, he said.

Tuesday’s vote was a tie between Mayor Pro Tempore David Cohn and Councilman Chris King voting for Drehs, and Daniels and Savoie voting instead in favor of opening the seat to applicants. Mayor Michael Alvarez broke the tie in favor of Drehs. Waddell was not in attendance.

Cohn, who endorsed Drehs before the election, and others argued the town had already spoken through the November election regarding who should fill the open seat. Drehs beat out the fourth-highest vote getter, Jerry Morse, by 74 votes, and some have voiced concerns that an election for this seat would go differently today if the 1,368 combined votes for Daniels and Savoie were recast for the remaining candidates.

But Cohn said the town’s recent election is a better guide for who should have the seat than an application process that could let personal politics and 10-minute candidate interviews disregard 513 recommendations from voters.

“I don’t know of a better person who can help move this town in a better direction,” Cohn said of Drehs, asking Daniels and Savoie if they would feel they deserved the seat if it had been one of them coming in third in November’s election.

Daniels and Savoie voiced concerns that the town should open the seat to an application process, and let the best candidate – who they acknowledged could be Drehs – win out. Otherwise, Savoie said this could create a situation where, if a future resignation were to occur, the seat would be filled by a runner-up who may not be qualified. If, for example, three candidates ran for two open seats, and the two winners each had 1,000 votes while the third candidate only had 100, appointing the runner-up may put someone in office that the majority of voters had not felt worth voting for.

The town shouldn’t “set ourselves up for somebody who is not a good fit for Indian Trail,” Savoie said, adding later that the runner-up next time “may not be a David Drehs.”

But town attorney Keith Merrett said Tuesday’s vote does not set a precedent the town must follow to fill future resignations, meaning Indian Trail councilmembers do not have to appoint the runner-up next time and could, if wanted, change the policy to suit their needs at any time. Merrett said he does not feel that would open the town to a lawsuit if the passed-over runner-up felt he or she was not given the same treatment as previous appointments.

Both Daniels and Savoie were careful to say they weren’t opposed to Drehs, just the process. Daniels spoke glowingly about Drehs after the November vote, but said Tuesday night that the election is over and the town should instead let the “best person come forward” through the process.

Town leaders have some time to think it over, as Waddell’s seat won’t officially open until Feb. 1. Town council isn’t scheduled to meet after that date until Feb. 11.

 

Find more information on Drehs, including his candidate surveys submitted to Union County Weekly leading up to the election, on page 11.

 

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