Decorah City Clerk Wanda Hemesath administers the oath of office to Jarrad Walter after he was appointed to the Ward 1 seat on the Decorah City Council Tuesday night.
Decorah City Clerk Wanda Hemesath administers the oath of office to Jarrad Walter after he was appointed to the Ward 1 seat on the Decorah City Council Tuesday night.
The Decorah City Council unanimously agreed to appoint Jarrad Walter to fill the Ward 1 vacancy on the Council during a special meeting Tuesday night after Ward 5 Council member Randy Schissel withdrew his application for the position.

John Franzen, who had represented Ward 1, resigned June 21 after he took a new job that conflicted with serving on the Council. Had a majority of the Council not reached an agreement on an appointment by July 31, the city would have been forced to hold a special election. Walter will serve through the end of the year, and, like six of the seven Council members, will be up for election this fall.

Schissel and Walter were the only two applicants for the Ward 1 position, and at the Council's last meeting, July 15, neither received enough votes to be appointed. A quorum of the entire seven-member Council - four votes - is required to be appointed to the Council.

Council members voted twice during their July 15 meeting on the two applicants, with no change in the results. Council members Gary Rustad, Paul Wanless and Jody Niess voted in favor of Schissel, while Rachel Vagts and Carolyn Corbin voted in favor of Walter. The Council scheduled Tuesday night's special meeting in an attempt to reach a consensus and avoid a special election that would cost about $2,000.

Schissel has served as the Council's Ward 5 representative for seven years, but due to redistricting following the 2010 Census, he now lives in the new Ward 1. At the Council's previous meeting, he said he wanted to apply for the Ward 1 opening because that is the Ward he now lives in.

Save city resources

Tuesday night, Schissel read a statement to the Council.

"After our meeting on July 15, it was apparent no easy solution was to be found. I submitted a letter of interest after the position was officially announced by the Council and at that time, no other persons had expressed interest. I confirmed with the secretary of state before applying that it (being a candidate for Ward 1) was permitted under state election laws," Schissel said.

"On July 17, I made the decision to withdraw from consideration to save city financial resources and to not give the impression of impropriety by the current Council ... I look forward to continuing to work with this Council to ensure the future of Decorah is very positive."

Schissel added only one person asked him to consider withdrawing his application for Ward 1. When asked who that was, he responded it was Walter.

Before the Council voted to appoint Walter, Council member Paul Wanless said he wanted the public to know it would have been legal for Schissel to vote for himself, which would have resulted in him being appointed. However, Schissel abstained from voting.

"If it weren't for the fact he was trying to avoid the appearance of impropriety, he could have ended this issue before now. He could have voted for himself and been the holder of the First Ward seat, but he chose not to," Wanless said.

Walter also addressed the Council.

"I do appreciate everyone's time and consideration ... I do appreciate the opportunity to serve on the Council," he said.

Walter is a Decorah native who moved to Austin, Texas, for 14 years before returning to Decorah in June of 2012. He has been serving on the Decorah Human Rights commission. Walter has worked for the past 13 years in sales and marketing in the information technology industry.