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Village Council vacancy— Van der Heiden to fill seat

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At their meeting Jan. 2, members of the Yellow Springs Village Council appointed Kathryn Van der Heiden to Council’s vacant seat. The unanimous decision followed an executive session of an hour and a half.

“It was not an easy decision. There was a lot of conversation and debate,” Acting President Karen Wintrow said when Council came out of executive session. Wintrow thanked Van der Heiden and the two other candidates, Chad Runyon and Jerry Sutton, for “coming forward” as applicants to fill the seat.

Van der Heiden, who ran unsuccessfully for Council in 2005, will take the seat of former Council President Jocelyn Hardman, who resigned from Council Dec. 3 due to increased work and school obligations. According to state law, Council had only 30 days to pick Hardman’s replacement. Van der Heiden’s appointment will last until Council’s next election in November

The decision “was a true compromise,” Council member Judith Hempfling said after the Council meeting. “Kathryn will bring an openness to Council.”

Council member Bruce Rickenbach declined to comment following the meeting.

In response to questions posed to applicants by the News last month, Van der Heiden, a psychotherapist, stressed her concern about a “breakdown in communication” between Council and the village, as reflected by the passage of Issue 21 by only one vote. She will bring to the Council table “skills in communication and maximizing positive group interaction and dialogue,” she wrote.

Van der Heiden also identified infrastructure repair and financial solvency as priorities, and stated that she was not philosophically opposed to annexation, believing that “annexation and measured growth will benefit us as a village in the long term.” However, she stressed the need to view annexation in the light of both costs and benefits to the village.

About 20 villagers attended the meeting, and during discussion of the appointment process before the executive session, Council was asked by Mary White to identify the criteria they would use to choose Hardman’s successor. Wintrow stated that she was seeking “new dynamics,” in Council, and sought someone who was competent and skilled in consensus building. Council member Kathryn Chase stated that Council had addressed that question at its previous meeting.

Council should appoint someone who could speak for those in the village who feel their views are not represented, according to Gina Paget, who said she was concerned by the close vote on Issue 21 and felt the vote shows that a large portion of the village felt disenfranchised.

Chris Zurbuchen stated that she was “impressed by the caliber of all three candidates,” and she encouraged them all to run for Council in the next election.

Following the meeting, Hempfling said she was encouraged by the community’s interest in the appointment process.

“I feel the discussion is opening up in the village,” she said. “It’s sometimes been contentious but it has been good. I feel we’re going in the right direction as a community.”

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