We agree with the Baker City Council’s recent decision to not appoint someone to replace James C. Thomas, who resigned Aug. 22.

The remaining six councilors had other options, but we don’t think any was as good as leaving Thomas’ seat vacant and letting voters fill it in the Nov. 6 election. Voters will choose four councilors then, and they have 10 candidates to choose from.

The biggest issue was timing.

Thomas’ term ends Dec. 31 of this year.

Had councilors sought to replace Thomas, any volunteers for the position would have known they would serve for about 3 months. Because the deadline to register as a candidate for the Nov. 6 election was Aug. 28 — the Council’s first meeting after Thomas’ resignation — no one who volunteered to serve the rest of Thomas’ term would have been eligible to be elected to a full term.

Councilors could have avoided that issue by trying to appoint one of the 10 candidates on the Nov. 6 ballot. In that case the appointed councilor would have a chance to be elected and continue to serve beyond 2018.

We wonder, though, whether any of the 10 would have accepted an appointment had it been offered. The reason is the term limits clause in the city charter. The charter limits councilors to serving no more than two consecutive terms (there is no lifetime limit). Here’s the rub — there is no minimum length for what defines one term. A person who serves for only a single meeting would have served one term and thus be eligible to serve only one more term consecutively.

Had one of the 10 candidates agreed to fill Thomas’ seat, that person, even if elected Nov. 6, would have been able to serve only that one additional term. The Council’s decision was sensible, and ensures Thomas’ replacement will have a chance to become an experienced councilor.

From the Baker City Herald editorial board. The board consists of editor Jayson Jacoby and reporter Chris Collins.

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