Filing for the November Swansboro Board of Commissioners’ election closed at noon on Friday, July 19, … or did it?

As it turns out, folks can still file to run for a seat on the town board, assuming town commissioners approve a special election, as they were expected to do at their regular meeting last night (July 23). (Tideland News operates under a deadline that did not allow the newspaper to include action from Tuesday night’s meeting.)

Prior to this year’s municipal election filing period, the Onslow County Board of Elections was unaware of the need for a special election, according to Jason Dedmond, director of elections in Onslow County.

Swansboro employs a five-commissioner system with terms staggered. Under normal circumstances, three commissioners are elected every two years with the top two finishers serving four-year terms and the candidate finishing third serving a two-year term. This allows for voters to choose a majority of the board every election cycle.

The mayor serves a four-year term but only has a vote in the case of tie. The current mayor’s term ends in 2021.

However, due to the resignation of Commissioner Angela Clinton early in her four-year term, this election will also decide who will fill the final two years of her term. Elected in November 2017 to a four-year term, Clinton resigned about eight months later citing a “family health situation.”

Phil Keagy was appointed to replace her, with the stipulation that he would serve only through the swearing in of the 2019 election winners.

State statutes allow for, and require, a mid-term election in cases like this, absent a town charter superseding the state statute. (See related item.)

Swansboro’s charter speaks to the issue of vacancies and appointments and does allow the commissioners to appoint a replacement “for the remainder of the term.” (See related item.)

However it was Clinton’s wish that the people have the option of voting on her replacement at the next –November 2019 – election. The town commissioners chose to respect that wish.

Dedmond, who was only recently hired to his position, said last week that he was aware the town would elect four commissioners in November. However, he said he was unaware of the need for the special election until conversation with Paula Webb, interim town manager, later in the week.

Webb said she called Dedmond last week with questions, apparently about the lack of the special election, “And he referred me to the state board of elections.”

On Monday, Webb also said that in January she had notified county elections officials of the need for the extra commissioner’s seat to be decided. Those talks came during the town’s budget preparations for 2019-20. Swansboro must plan for the cost of elections so it was important to take the extra seat into consideration.

“We did make them aware,” she said. “They said nothing to me.” At the time, Rose Whitehurst was director of the elections, according to Webb.

In their research, both Dedmond and Webb reached the same conclusion: The Clinton/Keagy seat must be filled by a special election.

“We are going to have to hold a special election,” Webb said.

“The council is going to have to ask for a special election,” Dedmond said.

On Monday, Webb said the resolution authorizing that request is prepared and would be considered at the commissioners’ meeting on Tuesday, July 23.

Once approved, the request will go to the Onslow County Board of Elections for consideration. Dedmond said the next regular meeting would be Aug. 20. But, he added, “We won’t be able to wait that long.” So he expects the board will meet in a special session.

Once approved, there will be a five-day filing period scheduled for anyone wishing to run for the two-years remaining on the Clinton/Keagy seat. Dedmond could not say when that five-day period would begin, but he did say, “I’ve been advised by the state board, the sooner the better.”

None of the current six candidates will be allowed to file for the seat, according to Dedmond.

The vote to decide will come on Election Day, Nov. 5. The regular election and the special election will all be on the same ballot, Dedmond said. “This is all at the direction of the state board. We ironed all this out.”

A total of six candidates have filed for the three seats that will be decided as part of the regular election process.

Incumbents Roy Herrick Jr. and Frank Tursi will join Jeffrey Conaway, Laurent Meilleur, Harry “PJ” Pugliese and Jerry Seddon on the ballot.

The top two finishers will serve four-year terms and the candidate coming in third-place will serve for two years.

In addition to Herrick, Keagy and Tursi, Brent Hatlestad’s two-year term will come to an end.

While Election Day is Nov. 5, registered voters have the opportunity to vote in advance of that day.

According to information provided by the board of elections, deadlines for the upcoming municipal elections are:

• Filing for office began July 5 and ended July 19.

• Absentee ballots will be available beginning Oct. 4. Oct. 29 is the last day to request an absentee ballot, by 5 p.m.

• Voter registration or party affiliation change deadline is Oct. 11 at 5 p.m.

• One-stop voting will begin Oct. 16. One-stop voting will end Nov. 2 at 1 p.m. One-stop voting sites will be determined.

• Absentee ballots will be accepted through Nov. 5 at 5 p.m., unless they are mailed. Ballots mailed by civilians must be postmarked by Nov. 5 and received by Nov. 8 at 5 p.m. Ballots mailed by military must be received by Nov. 14 at 5 p.m.

• The supplemental and provisional ballot meeting will be Nov. 14 at 3 p.m.

• The election canvass will be Nov. 15.

• Polls will open Election Day at 6:30 a.m. and will close at 7:30 p.m.

• Onslow County Board of Elections office is at 246 Georgetown Road in Jacksonville. The election office’s hours are 8 a.m. until 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, except on holidays. The phone number is (910) 455-4484.

Email Jimmy Williams at jimmy@tidelandnews.com.

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