It will be a difficult task to replace the kind of dedication and service Alderman Carleton Merrill showed for his consituents, but the city will soon be faced with finding someone to fill the Ward 1 alderman-at-large seat.
So, how does the process work?
According to the city's charter [Sec. 2-5 (a)], a special election must be held to fill the Board of Aldermen seat if the vacancy occurs within the first 15 months of the term.
The current term started in January 2012.
Since the seat in question is an alderman-at-large position, the special election will have to be held city wide.
Newton's Interim Election Commission Executive Secretary Peter Koutoujian Sr. told Newton Patch this week that the Election Commission will be meeting tomorrow, Feb. 1, to discuss the special election for Merrill's seat.
The meeting will be held at 3 p.m. in room 222 at City Hall, Koutoujian said.
Any date proposed by the Election Commission will have to be approved by the Newton Board of Aldermen.
Special Senate elections added to the list
Unfortunately, organizing special election dates in Newton will not be that simple.
With John Kerry's appointment to Secretary of State this week, Massachusetts will face a special state primary in April and a special election in June to fill Kerry's Senate seat.
Organizing the special election to fill Merrill's seat along with a special Senate primary and election will not be an easy task, Koutoujian said, especially with a special election for the Newton override questions already scheduled for March 12.
Added to that are this year's municipal elections, which will include a possible September primary and November general election. This means Newton voters could potentially head to the polls six times this year.
The city could consider getting permission to piggyback the Ward 1 at-large special election with the Senate special election, Koutoujian said, but that brings a whole new set of complications.
"You'll have to have two separate check-ins [during the election]," Koutoujian said, which could potentially confuse some voters at polling locations.
As for costs, a city-wide election for the Ward 1 at-large seat will likely run the city $80,000, Koutoujian said. If the city decides to piggyback the Ward 1 at-large election with a state election, Newton will still have to pay around $30,000, Koutoujian estimated, on top of any other costs related to the Senate election.
The Newton Election Commission will weigh its options tomorrow at its meeting in City Hall. Stay tuned to Patch for more information.