VOTE 2023: Fayetteville council approves special election for member vacancy

Sonia Harvey speaks during a City Council candidate forum session on Tuesday, Oct. 7, 2014. Harvey lost the 2014 election to incumbent Adella Gray, but returned to win a seat on the council four years later.(Flyer photo/Todd Gill)

FAYETTEVILLE – The City Council on Thursday agreed to hold a special election to fill the vacancy left when a council member resigned in June.

Sonia Harvey, who represented Ward 1, said her leased home was recently sold and she was initially unable to find a place to live in Ward 1, so she broadened her search to other parts of the city. Harvey said she eventually found a home in Ward 2, which means she cannot continue to serve on the council as a representative for Ward 1.

“Coming to the decision of considering a home outside of Ward 1 was undoubtedly difficult,” said Harvey. “However, upon reflecting on the potential to spend more quality time with my daughter Clara during her formative years, the choice became clear.”

She said the decision also felt like a second chance to reevaluate her career path, after recently committing to a second four-year term on the council.

Harvey’s final meeting was June 20. Her term wasn’t set to expire until the end of 2026.

When a member resigns, state law requires the remaining council members to either elect a new member to serve the remaining unexpired term or call for a special public election.

The resolution passed Thursday calls for a special election to be held on Nov. 14.

The council faced a similar situation in 2021 when Matthew Petty resigned after 13 years. The council voted 7-0 to hold a special election, and Mike Wiederkehr won the seat after defeating challengers Leslie Belden and Kristen Scott.

In another similar instance, a decision was required after Alan Long resigned from his Ward 4 post just 11 months into his second four-year term in 2017. The news came with one day before the group’s next meeting, so council members had to act quickly. They ultimately voted 5-2 to appoint Kyle Smith to fill the vacancy instead of calling a special election.

Harvey won a runoff election in 2018 to begin her first four-year term in the Ward 1, Position 1 seat. She ran unopposed in 2022 to secure a second term. She was present for 115 out of 120 City Council meetings, for a 96% attendance rate.