Jeremy Saland takes over as acting New Castle supervisor Wednesday from Ivy Pool but not before there was sharp disagreement Tuesday night whether he should be officially appointed to the position or be elevated by default.
The Town Board failed to vote on a prepared resolution to formally make the appointment after Councilwoman Lisa Katz objected because the move would force the entire board to be up for election this November, presenting the potential for five new members and a lack of continuity.
If he was appointed supervisor, Saland would have to resign his position as councilman leaving that seat vacant. As acting supervisor, which he now becomes because Pool designated him as her deputy at the start of her term, he is able to return to his council seat after the November election is certified in the supervisor’s race between Katz and Holly McCall and complete the remaining two years of his term.
In her appeal to the board, Pool said appointing Saland would signal to the public who is leading the town. The pandemic has also created the need for greater intermunicipal work and communication with the county and other communities, she said.
Furthermore, Pool noted that an appointment is what Saland requested.
“There’s been an absolute increase in the amount of intermunicipal work that’s gone on in the past year-and-a-half, the collaboration between and among municipalities has been a great deal of my job,” Pool said, “and so there should be clarity not only within this community but also within our neighboring communities as to who is steering this ship, as it were, and I think the community has the right to expect stable leadership in the town supervisor role.”
Pool said given the amount of work the job requires, Saland deserves the supervisor’s salary, which is about four times that of a councilmember in New Castle.
Pool announced last month that she would be resigning at the close of the June 15 Town Board meeting because she is moving to Chicago with her family this summer. The resignation comes more than 15 months after the death of her 11-year-old son in an upstate hiking accident, which Pool has cited as the key reason against seeking re-election.
Saland temporarily assumed the duties of the office as deputy supervisor in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy.
However, Katz maintained that there is a scenario at the start of next year where all five members would have no experience. Of the eight people on the ballot for the town election in November only Katz and Councilwoman Lori Morton, who are on opposing slates, are incumbents.
Katz said she would support a resolution that would pay Saland the supervisor’s salary for the time he serves in the acting role.
“You could have five people completely brand new to a Town Board be elected, which was not the point of a staggered board, which was very troubling to me and it should be troubling to you and our entire community, when Jeremy can still act as supervisor,” Katz said. “That is completely, stable leadership and he can get paid to act as supervisor, as he should.”
Katz said she was also worried about the process of filling the seat. She said a political party is allowed to designate a candidate to get them on the ballot. In this case, the New Castle Democratic Committee would put up a candidate who is likely be unopposed.
Katz and her running mates are seeking the Democratic nomination for supervisor but failed to receive the committee’s endorsement. They are also on an independent line.
Saland said he wanted the confidence of having all of his colleagues on the board support his appointment. He said he didn’t run for supervisor because he has seen firsthand the commitment it takes.
“I didn’t ask for this, I didn’t pursue this,” Saland said. “I didn’t run for this, certainly under these circumstances, but I am equipped to do it, I’m ready to do it, I have, unfortunately, been immersed in it the last year.”
Pool appealed to Katz before the close of the discussion to change her mind.
“I’ve asked you as my colleague, out of respect for me and what I’ve gone through the last year and all I’ve done for this community to do the right thing and you’re unwilling to do it,” Pool said.
“I think I am doing the right thing by making sure there is continuity on this board, which is very important,” Katz said.
The remaining two board members, Morton and Councilwoman Lauren Levin, both supported Saland’s appointment.
In addition to the supervisor’s seat being up for election, the council seats now occupied by Katz and Morton are being contested this year. Morton successfully ran last November to fill the seat.
Levin, who finished third in the 2019 Town Board race, was appointed to serve in Pool’s seat until last year’s special election, then was asked to stay on after former councilman Jason Lichtenthal resigned from the board in December. An election to fill the remaining two years of Lichtenthal’s term is also being held this November.