Veteran town council member won’t seek re-election in fall
By Don Nelson
Longtime Winthrop Town Council member Rick Northcott will finish his civic tenure in the role his grandfather once had: mayor of Winthrop.
Northcott was appointed to fill the vacant mayoral position at last week’s Town Council meeting, replacing Anne Acheson. The former mayor resigned effective June 3.
Northcott has been on the council for 12 years and will not seek re-election this November. He was one of two council members who expressed interest in the mayoral position. The other was Bob DeHart, who had been acting as mayor pro tem since Acheson’s resignation and who has announced that he is running for mayor in November.
At last week’s meeting, some audience members and other council members thanked DeHart for his efforts as mayor pro tem, but suggested that naming him mayor would give him an unfair advantage in his race against the other declared candidate for mayor, Sally Ranzau.
Council members Mike Strulic and Ben Nelson, who supported Northcott’s application, noted that Northcott is one of only two council members who was elected (Strulic is the other), as the other positions were filled by appointees who applied for council vacancies.
Northcott and DeHart both had supporters among the audience. During the public comment portion of the meeting, Roxie Miller urged the council to replace Acheson with a council member who had been elected rather than appointed. She supported Northcott because of his experience and “historical insight” about the town’s policies and issues. “He has a working knowledge of the town,” she said.
During an informal interview process with other council members, DeHart, who is retired, said he spent a lot of time at Town Hall during the past couple of weeks, getting up to speed on town issues and learning about applicable laws and codes.
Northcott, a contractor, said he is willing to devote as much time as is necessary to handle mayoral duties through the end of the year. He said he would like to “start generating some positive direction” for the town.
“I don’t have a dog in the fight” for the November elections, Northcott said, since he is retiring from the council.
Strulic said that appointing DeHart “might not be a fair start” to the mayoral contest. “We should let both ponies out of the gate at the same time,” he said.
Northcott said there are some things he would like to accomplish in the next six months, until his term expires in January 2018. One of his first acts may be to hire a new town marshal to replace former Marshal Hal Henning, who was fired by Acheson in February.
The town solicited applicants for the marshal’s position, and four candidates went through oral exams last week. The town’s Civil Service Commission recommended only one of the candidates for further consideration. That candidate is now undergoing a background check and is scheduled to be interviewed next week.
As the mayor, Northcott has hiring and firing authority.
Acheson resigned effective June 3 largely because of ongoing controversy in the community and dissension on the Town Council over her decision to fire Henning. She has announced that she is running for a town council position in November.
As a result of Northcott being named mayor, his council seat now becomes vacant. Winthrop residents interested in filling that seat should contact Town Hall.
After last week’s meeting, Northcott said he was disappointed that Acheson resigned. “I thought she did a great job,” he said. Acheson had enjoyed strong support from the town’s staff.
Northcott is a third-generation council member. His father also served on the Winthrop Town Council. And his nephew Kellen Northcott is currently on the council.
Neither Strulic nor Kellen Northcott is seeking re-election. In addition to the mayoral race between DeHart and Ranzau, Acheson will face Kirsten Vanderhalf for position 1; Joseph O’Driscoll is running unopposed for position 2; Nelson is running unopposed for position 3; William McAdow is running unopposed for position 4; and Bill McAdow is running unopposed for position 5. So at least three of the six positions, and possibly as many as five, will be filled by people with no experience on the council.