LANCASTER – The Lancaster City Council voted Tuesday to accept the resignation of Council Member Sherry Marquez and declare a vacant council seat.
“It’s not going to be the same without her,” said Mayor R. Rex Parris. “I’m going to miss her.”
The Mayor’s sentiments were not felt by all at the Council Meeting.
“We’re now going to move in the right direction as a city and begin to heal from the damage that she has inflicted on the citizens with the violations of civil rights and her discriminatory behavior,” Lancaster resident David Abber told the council. “It’s time for the rest of the council members to realize that this is something that cannot be tolerated.”
Abber said a special election would be the right thing to do, but if the Mayor chose to appoint someone, then he, Abber, was throwing his hat in the ring to finish out Marquez’s remaining term for free.
Speaker Michael Rives also recommended a procedure for filling the vacancy. He urged the council to have interested parties submit an application to the City Council and then have the parties speak before the council for 3 to 5 minutes.
“This way the public would have some participation in it,” said Rives.
In a passionate speech before the council, Lancaster resident Elizabeth Helm pushed for more diversity in city leadership.
“Sherry Marquez’s resignation provides a great opportunity for the honorable Mayor Parris and the remaining members of the City Council to demonstrate that they can be inclusive rather than exclusive,” said Helm. “This is an opportunity to demonstrate that Lancaster is not the rural backwater of prejudice that it is perceived to be based on the inflammatory statements of a few.”
In considering Marquez’s replacement, Helm said leaders had a moral and ethical obligation to represent the entire population.
“Please consider how the diverse community of Lancaster will be watching how you go about deciding who should replace Sherry Marquez,” Helm said.
“Are you saying no more old fat white guys?” Parris quipped, to laughter from the audience.
Council member Marvin Crist also responded: “Does a female Asian count as a minority?”
Citing a code that states the appointment be made by the mayor with the consent of City Council, Parris said he was willing to consider anyone who was highly qualified for the seat.
“I will consider anybody that the council passes on to me,” he said. “But it will be in two weeks that we make that appointment.”
Parris later provided a hint of what was to come.
“I do have one person in mind and depending on what she says, and also depending on who else is put forward, I’ll make a decision,” he said.
Parris said the final decision on who will replace Sherry Marquez will be made at the next City Council meeting.