COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Columbus City Council on Thursday outlined the appointment process and timeline it will pursue for a seat soon vacated by Elizabeth Brown, the council’s president pro tempore who was recently chosen to lead the YWCA Columbus

According to a public memo Council President Shannon Hardin sent to its members, applicants will be accepted starting Nov. 29 through midday on Dec. 9. A public hearing will be held on Jan. 2 for commentary on the list of finalists. 

The full council will nominate and vote on who will join its ranks during the body’s Jan. 9 meeting.  

Hardin said in a news release that with big changes coming to the council at the end of next year, he believed the city would best be served by someone who is a “civic leader who can act as a caretaker.”

“While I am only one member of this body, I will be looking for applicants to finish the one year remainder of Council President Pro Tem Elizabeth Brown’s term rather than applicants planning to campaign for the seat in the 2023 elections,” Hardin said. 

On Columbus City Council, appointments are not uncommon

Four of seven sitting Columbus City Council members got their start on the governing body after being appointed. 

Brown, the council’s president pro tempore, was first elected in 2015 and reelected in 2019. She will take the reins as president and CEO of nonprofit agency YWCA Columbus in January, the agency announced last Thursday. She is also the executive director of the Ohio Women’s Public Policy Network, which advocates for public policy that betters women’s economic security.

With Brown leaving, that number will go to five, at least through the November 2023 election. 

Ohio University leadership and public service professor Anirudh Ruhil said he believes this chain of events isn’t unique to Columbus, although vacancies and appointments are more common at the local levels of government.

“If people get an opportunity to move on up — there’s a state seat open, for example, they’re encouraged to run for the Statehouse — they might choose to do it,” Ruhil said. “Or, they might get an opportunity in the private sector or the public sector.”  

Before he was elected in November 2019, councilmember Rob Dorans was selected to fill current Franklin County Auditory Michael Stinziano’s seat. And councilmember Emmanuel Remy, also elected in 2019, was first appointed after current City Attorney Zach Klein resigned.

Elections cost money and take time, Ruhil said. Appointment processes, rather than special elections, tend to bridge that gap between when a local public official leaves office and the next electoral cycle. But they also give the people who are ultimately picked and placed an incumbent’s advantage when it comes time for voters to decide who will lead them, he said. 

“Your face is out there, your name is out there, and you get recognition,” Ruhil said. “When it comes time for elections, since local races tend to have the lowest turnout, and the lowest engagement, often people will hold on to the name that they recognize.”

It can narrow the field — challenger candidates have to work harder for that name recognition, he said. 

Appointment will also bridge gap until council makeup changes

Besides a new face in Brown’s seat at the start of the year, Columbus City Council will look different by the end of 2023, as Hardin alluded to. The body will grow by two members — to nine — as it also changes from an entirely at-large body to a hybrid body.

Under this new system, candidates for council have to live in the districts they are seeking election to — although all voters in the city of Columbus will vote on the whole slate of candidates, rather than just in the election for their ward.

More information about the districts Columbus residents will fall within is available on the city government’s website.