Airport District board considers election or appointment for vacant spot
As candidates and incumbents took to campaigning for the November election, Jim Morrison stepped away from his responsibilities at the Tahoe Truckee Airport District Board.
The board in a Friday Zoom meeting discussed the process of finding his replacement — via appointment or election. The position isn’t one up for grabs in November’s election.
According to David Diamond, a candidate for the Tahoe Truckee Airport District Board this November, Morrison was the only pilot on the five-member board.
Morrison began his tenure on the board after the death of his wife Katie Morrison, who died in March 2011 alongside their two children in a plane crash in San Bernardino County. Katie Morrison was elected to the Airport District Board in November 2010. Her husband was appointed after the board called for applications and conducted interviews. He was subsequently reelected in 2014 and again in 2018 before announcing his resignation just over 100 days before the 2020 election.
During the meeting Friday, the board opted to keep its options open. The Tahoe Truckee Airport District will solicit applications by posting advertisements for the position at the airport, local libraries and affiliated public utility districts and schools.
The window to apply will end Sept. 30. The special district board will reconvene Oct. 13 to determine if it will appoint one of the applicants or defer to district members’ decision in a special election that would occur in the spring.
Board members expressed concern about leaving the position vacant until the spring because of the policy gridlock caused by tied votes.
“It’s hard because we’re so close to the election without an understanding of what the voter would want,” said board member Lisa Wallace.
The airport’s General Manager Kevin Smith said the cost of a special election to the district would be between $9 and $12 per registered voter. With over 15,000 registered voters in the special district, the estimated cost of a spring election would be a minimum of $130,000. Election costs to the district could be reduced by sharing the ballot with another issue some other regional institution would like constituents to vote on.
Board Vice President Mary Hetherington said she would like to avoid a public appointment process like the one the Truckee Town Council endured in 2019 after the resignation of Morgan Goodwin.
“What the town went through was painful — the public interview and discussion,” Hetherington said. “A lot of people had heartburn with that.”
The board has a 60-day window to determine how it will choose Morrison’s replacement before Placer County takes over the process, the district’s legal counsel Josh Nelson said.
Nelson said the board’s decision to accept applications for appointment until Sept. 30 does not necessarily bind the board to an appointment process. It may still decide to have a special election come spring.
Current candidates for the November election are permitted to apply for the position.
Rebecca O’Neil is a staff writer for The Union. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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