Council to offer Firth vacant seat

Fort Frances town Council has voted to fill its vacant seat with Kaleb Firth, who was a contender in the 2022 town council elections.

The seat was left vacant by David Kircher, who resigned following the release of an Integrity Commissioner report criticizing his conduct.

Council was presented with four options to fill the seat. The first, and recommended action was to offer the seat to Firth. Other options included appointing an eligible previous council member, or soliciting applications from the general public for consideration for a council appointment. The possibility of a by-election was also presented, but administration advised against it, due to cost concerns.

Firth will have first right of refusal for the position. If he declines, or is found ineligible, the position will go to open applications from the public.

However, in an interview with the Times, Firth stated he fully intends to accept the seat.

“The town clerk called me this morning,” said Firth. “I've talked with my family, and I've talked with my business team, and I notified the clerk.”

At the council meeting, council voted 3-2 in favour of appointing Firth, including an endorsement from Mayor Andrew Hallikas.

“I'm in favor of appointing the runner up,” said Hallikas. “I'm a I'm a firm believer in people standing up and taking part in democracy.”

“I really admire people who are doers who actually try to get involved in the democratic process,” added Hallikas. “They actually, make an effort, a conscious effort to make their community a better place.”

Councillors John McTaggart and Mike Behan agreed with Hallikas’s point of view that the seventh candidate for the 2022 town elections should be offered a seat at council. Councillors Mandi Olson and Steve Maki voted to canvas for applications instead.

“I think when a democratic process can happen, I would like to see that happen in our community,” said Olson.

The mayor explained that a byelection done too late in a city council’s term can be problematic as an election costs money and it can be a distraction from municipal matters.

“We're about 35% through the term,” said Hallikas. “An election would take time and further expense.”

The last and only byelection held in the history of Fort Frances was in Jan. 2008. The runner up, Ken Perry, was ultimately elected in the byelection. Detractors of the process felt Perry, who held the seventh place finish after the election, should have been appointed to save money.

Louis Bergeron, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Fort Frances Times