On the day that Susan Gorin will be sworn in as the new Sonoma County 1st District supervisor, her former colleagues on the Santa Rosa City Council will begin the politically delicate task of replacing her.
Several key questions facing the council Tuesday will determine how they'll go about filling the vacancy.
Should they let the voters decide in a special election?
Should they take applications from residents, conduct interviews and appoint someone themselves?
Or should they just cut to the chase and award the seat to the next highest vote-getter from November?
Answering these and other questions about the appointment process will be a test of sorts for the recently realigned council, now led by Mayor Scott Bartley with newcomer Erin Carlstrom as vice mayor.
The answers also could help determine the balance of power on an ideologically divided council split between three members backed by business and development interests, two supported by environmental and neighborhood groups, and one, Carlstrom, with backers from both camps.
"It's going to make for some interesting council-watching in the near future," said Tim Aboudara, political director for the Santa Rosa Firefighters IAFF Local 1401.
Whether to hold an election may prove the easiest decision. An election would be expensive and probably couldn't take place until November.
The county registrar estimates a special election would cost taxpayers between $167,000 and $292,000. And, because of the way the law is written, the next available date for an election might be Nov. 5, according to City Attorney Caroline Fowler.
That's because the council presumably wouldn't opt for an election until it at least tries to find an appointee, Fowler said. That process of advertising for the opening, taking applications, interviewing candidates and making a decision could take several weeks.
The council has until March 1, which is 60 days from the date Gorin resigned, to select an appointee. If the council can't decide or chooses not to appoint someone, an election would be held at the next regular election date at least 114 days out. That could make it hard to hit the June 4 election date, leaving Nov. 5 the earliest possible election, Fowler said.