Dawson resigned, saying he could no longer adequately represent his constituents, leaving the other four members of the council to fill his seat for the remainder of the current term, which ends in October.
The city took applications for the seat through 5 p.m. Wednesday and released the names Thursday.
Chris Abernathy, Marcus Dunn, Brian Harmon, Millie Harris, Bill Robison, Joel Russell and Richard Thompson applied for the chance to finish Dawson’s term.
The field of applicants covers a wide range of ages. Harmon, 26, was the youngest applicant, and Robison, 73, was the oldest. The field includes one woman, and the candidates have a variety of backgrounds and experience from a former mayor and councilman to those who have served on boards and civic clubs and done volunteer work. All the candidates hope to use their experience to make Anniston a better place to live.
“I know that I can make a difference,” said Harris, who hopes to become the only councilwoman currently serving. “I believe we are coming out of (the doldrums) now and I want to be a part of it.”
Harris, 61, is unsure whether she would seek the office in the election this summer.
Two of the applicants, Abernathy, 42, and Thompson, 65, say they would like to serve just for the next few months. Neither plans to run for the seat in the upcoming election. Thompson also said he would not accept the council salary while in office. Council members are paid $1,000 each month.
“They need somebody that is on board for the right reason and not on board as a stepping stone for the next election,” Thompson said.
Both Abernathy and Thompson said they have a desire to step in temporarily and help the council remain productive even as it adjusts to a changing membership.
“I would bring, hopefully, a stabilizing force for the short term without disrupting the long-term picture,” Abernathy said. “I think this situation calls for someone to step in and help the rest of the council achieve what they’ve already been working on without trying to start a lot of things that they won’t be able to finish.”
Robison and Russell had already announced their intent to run for the office before Dawson stepped down. Councilman Ben Little said at the last council meeting that he would prefer to select a candidate who did not intend to run for the office because being appointed could give them an unfair advantage in the election.
Robison, though, said the appointment might be an advantage or a disadvantage depending on how people view the actions taken while in office for the next six months.
Robison is the only applicant who has already held elected office. He believes his political experience would make his transition into the Ward 4 council seat a quick one that would benefit the council and the city.
“About 80 to 90 percent, I could just step in there and there’s not going to be that long a learning curve,” he said. “I’ve already gone through some of that stuff.”
Robison, though, is a member of the Anniston Board of Education. If he is selected, the council will have to appoint a replacement to the board.
Harmon, 26, said though he had not announced yet, he plans to run for the seat in the upcoming election, so it was natural for him to apply for the vacancy.
“I want our city to be a place that’s full of opportunity, a place that’s full of innovation, and I want to see our neighborhoods not just stabilized but revitalized,” he said. “I think I have some ideas that could help get that going.”
The councilmen will meet Monday to interview the candidates and plan to make their choice at the council meeting on Tuesday. According to state law, the council has three meetings to appoint a new member or it is considered to be in deadlock. If the council becomes deadlocked, the mayor gets an extra vote to break the tie. Tuesday’s meeting will be the second meeting since Dawson’s resignation.
Mayor Gene Robinson said the interviews will be 15 minutes long, with each applicant having the opportunity to make an opening and closing statement. Interviews will start at 3 p.m. and will be held in the council chambers at City Hall.
Contact staff writer Laura Camper at 256-235-3545.