Vergennes City Council supports Perry as new mayor

VERGENNES — Senior Alderman and former Vergennes City Manager Renny Perry on Tuesday night told the other members of the city council that after a weekend of thinking it over he would be willing to serve out the remainder of recently resigned Mayor Michael Daniels’ term.
As senior alderman Perry automatically took over as mayor as called for in the Vergennes city charter when Daniels, citing conflicts with his fellow council members, resigned on Feb. 8. But Perry said he would only stay on until March 2019 if council members agreed.
Perry, now also the president of the Vergennes Partnership, said he hesitated without council approval to serve the rest of Daniels’ term, which will expire on Town Meeting Day 2019, because he had already made extensive travel plans that would mean he would miss several meetings.
“I had a little bit of a struggle whether to keep the mayor’s position — that I got unexpectedly — for a long period of time. And I decided that I would because it would be a lot less complex than trying to change things around. And I do have a few things to mention to the council, because if the council feels these things are a problem then I might reconsider,” Perry said. “One of the things that was weighing on me about continuing in the position is I’m going to be away a lot.”
Perry, who has previous mayoral experience in New Hampshire and is now retired, cited a six-week absence in March and April and two shorter trips that he has already booked and paid for.
“I was thinking, ‘Is that fair to the council, is that fair to the citizens, for me to be away that amount of time?’” Perry said. “I don’t think it will really be that bad, although it does bother me. But it really depends on whether it bothers you.”
Perry, who told the Independent last week he also had some concerns about his commitments to the Vergennes Partnership and other nonprofits, said if the council members supported him as mayor he would be in “full contact by computer and phone.” He also said on Tuesday that the council could appoint a new senior alderman in whom members had confidence to run meetings in his absence.  
Council backing emerged right after Perry spoke. Alderman Matt Chabot answered immediately, and Alderwoman Lynn Donnelly agreed with his remarks.
“Renny, I support you taking over the mayoral responsibilities for the balance of the term, and I appreciate your candor,” said Chabot. “I think with an appointment of another senior alderman in your stead and with your ability to be available to us by phone and email I have no concerns regarding you in that role. I appreciate your leadership.”
The council then turned its attention to two related issues. Donnelly nominated Alderman Jeff Fritz to be the new senior alderman, a motion that won a quick second and unanimous approval.
The other question was how to replace Perry on the council. Perry is on the Town Meeting Day ballot, and will win because he, like Donnelly and Chabot, is running unopposed. Perry walked away from the two-year term he would have won by accepting one year as mayor.
The council thus had to choose how to replace Perry, with the choices being by special election — the timing of Daniels’ resignation left no time to arrange a Town Meeting Day election — or appointment. City Manager Mel Hawley noted no one had filed petitions to challenge the three council members this March and recommended against a special election.
“You’d probably end up with one (candidate) and your polls would be open for 10 hours and you’d have a non-race,” Hawley said.
Hawley also pointed out the charter requires the council to act “forthwith,” or immediately, to fill a vacancy, creating a problem of timing: Donnelly as well as Perry will be away in March, and an appointment made before town meeting would technically expire on Town Meeting Day.
Alderman Mark Koenig suggested making an appointment at the council’s Feb. 27 meeting, but making it effective after March 6, the date of Town Meeting Day, and the council agreed to that approach.
The council is seeking letters of intent with a deadline of next Thursday, Feb. 22. Such letters may be emailed to City Clerk Joan Devine at [email protected] or dropped off at city hall on or before next Thursday. Those interested then will be asked to make a presentation to the council of up to five minutes at its Feb. 27 meeting, after which the council can make a decision.
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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