When voters head to the polls to elect town leaders in Webster this fall, the choices will be slim. Mighty slim.
Only two candidates are running for five openings on the board — leaving three seats unclaimed.
The tiny Jackson County town has just 444 registered voters. The sign-up period for candidates to run in town elections was held in July, but the two-week window came and went without enough takers putting their name in the hat. Jackson County Election Director Lisa Lovedahl-Lehman extended the filing period by five days, which is the maximum allowed under state law. But no additional candidates emerged.
So come Election Day, the makeup of the town board will largely be determined by write-ins.
“We’ve never had this happen before,” Lovedahl said. “This is the first widespread write-in candidacy.”
Billy Jean Bryson, a Webster town board member who defied the trend and will run for re-election, said she doesn’t know why three of her fellow board members are stepping down.
“I asked them the same question myself,” Bryson said. “I guess they just decided they didn’t want to.”
The long-time mayor of Webster, Steve Gray, is stepping down this year as well, but someone has stepped up to run for mayor at least.
The line-up — or rather lack of one — has prompted Bryson to go on the stump to recruit prospective candidates rather than leaving it up to chance that a write-in will emerge.
“I have several neighbors who would certainly do an excellent job,” Bryson said. “I will have to consult with them.”
Bryson knows of two people whom she believes have agreed to serve on the board. Next it will be a matter of disseminating the word to voters what name to write in. Bryson said if push comes to shove, the town board could function with just four members and a permanently vacant seat. They would still have the necessary majority for a quorum and the mayor could vote in the case of a tie.
“We could work with that if we had to,” Bryson said.
Being a small town doesn’t usually preclude competition in local elections. In fact, the opposite can be true. Four years ago, there was healthy competition in the Webster election with two contestants for mayor and eight people running for the five town board seats.