Williamston seeks to fill city council seat

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Brian Goldsmith

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Williamston City Council does not meet at City Hall. Meetings have been held since April 13, during the second and fourth Mondays of each month, via Zoom. Credit: Brian Goldsmith.

With one month away from voting in the November general election, Williamston is looking for a fifth city council candidate because Councilman Jon Bisard, serving as mayor pro-tem, decided to step down.

The council appointed Bisard in 2018. He served two years of a four-year term starting in Feb. 2018. One of two-seat vacancies filled by the council in 2018 included the appointment of Bisard.  

Re-election

Councilman Daniel Rhines filled the second council seat in 2018. Running unopposed, Councilman Rhines is expected to stay on the council for the full four-year term.

Two of the three individuals running for the council will look familiar to voters, incumbents Mayor Tammy Gilroy and Councilman Gene Smith. 

The newcomer

The final name on the ballot is newcomer Tommy Pratt. Pratt works as an automotive specialist at the Wilson Talent Center in Mason. He formerly owned Pratt Automotive LLC. He attended Lansing Community College and is a Williamston High School graduate. 

Residency requirement

City Manager Corey Schmidt said in an email interview, The council seats are rarely filled, even with only a two-year residency requirement. The council is looking into amending the residency requirement for Williamston elective positions, Schmidt said, “The current language is confusing and should be clarified.”

Board openings

“One way for communities to persuade residents to run for an elected position is by considering them for appointments to other boards and commissions,” Schmidt said. “These boards and commissions offer a way for a resident to see what public service entails and exposes them to the business of local city government.”

A shortage of elected candidates is a recurring issue in Williamston with a population of under 4,000, said Schmidt. Only four Williamston residents ran for city council during the primaries. It’s no surprise as in recent years the town continues to see residents resign from office.

According to the city of Williamston website, there are seven vacancies on various Williamston boards and commissions: 

  • Construction board of appeals: 3 vacancies
  • Part-time zoning administrator: 1 vacancy
  • Downtown Development Association: 1 vacancy
  • Economic Development Corp./ Tax Increment Finance Authority: 1 vacancy 
  • Board of Review: 1 vacancy

The lack of Williamston residents engaging in local issues concerns Nurse Practitioner Irina, 59, who did not want her last name published. Irina, a 25-year city resident, is very aware of the local ongoing issues, but when asked had no interest in pursuing a city board position. 

Bisard’s term expires on Nov. 30. According to the Williamston City Charter sec 3.13, the council will have 60 days to begin on Dec. 1 to fill the empty seat. He cited the reason for stepping down as not having enough time to commit to the council.