It's high time for leadership in Aberdeen [Editorial]

It's been four months since Aberdeen didn't elect a fourth and final member of its city council, and there's still no resolution of what has become a monumental embarrassment for the city.

For those who have been out of town, Stephen Smith and Sean DeBonis tied for that fourth seat with 655 votes each.


There was a recount. There has been posturing. There have been two nominations to fill the vacancy. There have been two nominees summarily rejected.

And Aberdeen is in the same place it was after the votes were counted Election Night – Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2015 – with an empty seat on the city council.

For that, we blame Mayor Patrick McGrady, who is acting as if he is the only person following what's going on in Aberdeen who doesn't know the score: Aberdeen City Council 3, Aberdeen Mayor 1.

No matter how he tries to ignore the math, those are the numbers. But McGrady continues to act as if that reality is lost on him when he make nominations to the vacant seat.

During last fall's campaign, McGrady ran for mayor on a ticket that included DeBonis and two others. Mike Bennett, the incumbent mayor, ran on a ticket with the three successful council candidates – Sandy Landbeck, Tim Lindecamp and Melvin Taylor – and Smith.

Since the first week after the election, we have championed that Aberdeen hold a runoff election between DeBonis and Smith. So has the Aberdeen Election Board, and so have other Aberdeen leaders and voters.

Inexplicably, Aberdeen is clinging to a wrong-headed opinion while it may pass muster in the legal world, is meritless in the common sense world.

Simply put, Doug Miller, the former Aberdeen city manager, solicited an opinion from the city attorney, who opined Aberdeen couldn't hold a special election because the city charter doesn't allow it.

The consequences, according to that opinion, could be dire if anyone posed a legal challenge to an action by the elected body. Additionally, so the opinion goes, Aberdeen might not be able to borrow money because the lending institutions might deem its government to be illegal.

All of that might be plausible, if it wasn't that our governments, including Aberdeen's, and our whole American way of life is based on elected representation.

But since the legal word, at least in Aberdeen, is carrying the day over the foundations of democracy, it's time to move on.

It's McGrady's fault that Aberdeen still doesn't have a complete city council seated because he should have done more to take the city past this. He's the elected leader of the city and it's time he leads.

There have been many presidents of one party, who have had to work with a Congressional majority of the opposite party. Eventually, those presidents faced that unpleasant reality and got things done.

That's what McGrady should be doing, not repeating his missteps of nominating people he can't get approved, and ignoring that the three sitting city council members continue to hold sway with a 3-1 majority.


It's one thing to be a petulant contrarian when one is sitting outside of government looking in, and quite another to act that way as the elected leader. Whether McGrady likes it or not, Aberdeen's voters chose him to be the mayor and a majority of his opposition to sit on the city council.

For McGrady, it's way past time to lead Aberdeen out of this political morass, not push it deeper into it.