In the vast majority of Tennessee cities, a vacancy in the office of mayor must be filled by a member of the municipality’s governing board. This means that there are only a handful of people who might conceivably be promoted to fill a mayoral vacancy in your town.
On the other hand, aldermanic vacancies may be filled by any legally qualified resident of the community – meaning that there may be thousands of people who might potentially fill a vacant position. This fact tends to slow down the replacement of a resigning alderman, as the board may want time to advertise, recruit, interview and examine numerous possible contenders.
While the filling of aldermanic vacancies is not usually as crucial as those in the office of mayor, cities must avoid delaying the process longer than is necessary. There are two reasons for this:
- Some city charters establish a strict time limit for the filling of board vacancies. Failure to meet these deadlines would be a violation of the charter that municipal officials are sworn to uphold. In some communities, failure to meet the appointment deadline requires the board to hold a costly special election to fill the vacancy.
- Particularly in those municipalities where board members are elected by district or ward, a prolonged aldermanic absence deprives citizens of the representation to which they are entitled. Citizens likely will not appreciate the passage of important legislation that occurred while they were either unrepresented or under-represented at city hall. Better to delay such actions until after the vacancy is filled, if possible.