Saratoga finds its Creed

New council members take seats, Creed James appointed mayor at January 5 town council meeting


January 13, 2021

Joshua Wood

From left, Mayor Pro-Tem Bob Keel swears in Creed James and Ben Spaulding on January 5.

While a run-off election in Georgia was determining who would gain control of the United States Senate on January 5, the Saratoga Town Council was finding their own direction during their first meeting of 2021 as they swore in new council members and a new mayor.

Transfer of Powers

As the final actions of Councilmember Judy Welton and Councilmember D'Ron Campbell, the Saratoga Town Council went through the customary approval of the minutes, agenda and paying of the bills prior to the oath of office for Creed James and Ben Spaulding.

Mayor Pro-Tem Bob Keel took a moment, before swearing-in the two incoming council members, to thank both Welton and Campbell for their service.

"I would just like to thank Judy for the two years I've had a chance to serve with her. She's really taken me under her wing sitting on this side of the council," said Keel. "I want to thank you, D'Ron. You stepped in during a really hard time for this town and I thank you for the service that you provided the town."

After Keel led both James and Spaulding through the oath of office, they took their places on the council and effectively brought an end to the unexpired terms that Welton and Campbell had been appointed to. 

"Thank you everybody for putting your faith and trust in me to hold the Town of Saratoga to a standard that we should all hope to follow," said Spaulding, upon taking his seat. "I'll do everything in my power to make sure that I follow the rules and regulations of the state and of this town."

"This council is going to have a lot of hard work to do going forward. We're going to be tasked with a lot of challenges and I'm confident with the four we have up here now," added James. "I'm hopeful and confident that this group will make some progress and hopefully get us pointed in the right direction."

Finding their Creed

After both James and Spaulding took their seats, Keel brought up the subject of a mayoral appointment and asked if the new council was willing to fill the position. Councilmember Jon Nelson made a motion to appoint James to fill the mayoral vacancy, which was seconded by Spaulding.

"As I look ahead and think about what the next two years are going to bring, as was mentioned before, I'm extremely confident and optimistic about the four people that are sitting here right now and that we will have a 5th soon and that the five of us can work together to point this ship in the direction that we need to go," said Nelson. "I can't say enough about both these guys and I have a tremendous amount of confidence in Creed's ability to lead us."

Nelson, Spaulding and Keel all voted in favor of appointing James to the vacant mayor seat while James abstained. 

After leading James through the oath of office for the second time that night, Keel relinquished control of the meeting to the new mayor. Nelson thanked Keel for his time as mayor pro-tem following James' appointment.

"I would also like to say thank you for getting us through to this point," saidNelson. "Appreciate all your work, all your effort and all your time." 

"I would be lying if I said I did it all myself. I think the job of running this town is done by committee, on purpose, and I know we all put an effort into it and I think, Jon, you put a huge effort into it more times than not," Keel replied. "I would like to offer Mayor James, and this may be a question for legal counsel, but I would be willing to resign my office of Mayor Pro-Tem so that you can pick whoever you want from the current council to fill that position."

A New Vacancy

Following the appointment of James to the position of mayor, yet another vacancy was created on the council. Under council comments, Keel made a motion to declare a vacancy with a deadline for letters of interest of January 15.

The process for declaring a vacancy in the role of mayor or councilmember is found in both Wyoming State Statute and Saratoga Municipal Code. 

Under Wyoming State Statute 15-1-107(a), a vacancy is determined to exist if a mayor or councilmember: is not a resident of the city, town or ward; is convicted of a felony; fails to attend four or more consecutive council meetings without an excused absence; or any condition under 22-18-101 with one of those conditions including resigning.

Saratoga Municipal Code 2.08.120 mirrors Wyoming State Statute for determining a mayoral or council vacancy as directed by Wyoming State Statute 15-1-107(b).

Additionally, Wyoming State Statute 15-1-107(c) reads that upon a vacancy being determined to exist "the governing body shall appoint an eligible person to the office who shall serve until his successor is elected at the next general municipal election and qualified." 

While James had been elected to a four-year term, it would appear that a vacancy to the new vacancy would only be until 2022. On January 6, the Saratoga Sun reached out to Carbon County Clerk Gwynn Bartlett via email for clarification. Bartlett prefaced by stating that the governing body would need to obtain legal advice on the matter.

"That said, yes, essentially Mr. Creed resigned from his councilperson office and W.S. 15-1-107 will refer you to 22-18-101 that says the vacancy in elective office occurs if a resignation occurs," said Bartlett. "To fill the vacancy the council will appoint someone who will serve until 'the next General Election' which will be in 2022."

Bartlett added that the person elected in 2022 would then start their term in 2023.

The next meeting of the Saratoga Town Council will be at 7 p.m. on January 15 at Saratoga Town Hall.


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