Michael O’Donnell doesn’t want you to vote for him on Tuesday.
Not the Michael O’Donnell who serves on the Sedgwick County Commission, but his father, the Rev. Dr. Michael O’Donnell, whose name is on the ballot for Bel Aire City Council on Tuesday.
In an electoral quirk, the senior O’Donnell, pastor of Wichita Grace Baptist Church, has moved out of Bel Aire and is therefore ineligible to serve on the City Council. His name remains on the ballot because the move came too late to get it taken off.
This week, he wrote a letter in the the Bel Aire Breeze newspaper, explaining the situation so people in the community would know not to vote for him.
But if he is among the top four finishers – out of eight – in Tuesday’s election, it could be a month and a half after Election Day before the council has a full complement of members.
Peggy O’Donnell, the wife of the Rev. O’Donnell and the mother of Commissioner O’Donnell, served 12 years on the Bel Aire council, but decided not to seek re-election this year.
Her husband filed to run instead.
Since then, he said, he’s run into some health problems requiring amputation of part of his foot, so he and his wife decided they needed to move to a one-story home.
Their new home is just south of the Bel Aire city limits, although it’s actually closer to City Hall than their old home was, he said.
Peggy O’Donnell resigned her seat on the council last month.
If Pastor O’Donnell is among the top four vote-getters, he won’t be able to take office, said City Attorney Jacqueline Kelly.
And the seat won’t default to the next-highest finisher, Kelly said. Under city ordinance, it would create a vacancy that would have to be filled by the mayor and council.
The vacancy would open a 45-day window for residents to send their resumes to the city to apply for the job.
Mayor David Austin would have that time to review resumes and interview applicants and nominate someone for the open seat. The council would then need to confirm the appointment with a public vote.
Austin said it’s important that residents know the situation and vote carefully. Complicating that is the similarity in names between the county commissioner and his son.
He said he’s had people ask him at forums how one person could be on both the commission and the council, and he’s had to explain it’s father and son.
Austin said the city went through the vacancy process about two years ago when a council member resigned a few months after the last election.
“I put forth two people who had run and gotten votes in the election,” he said.
But in the council vote, neither one ended up getting the seat, he said.