By Jerome Tharaud/Havre Daily Newsemail@example.com
Hill County Attorney David Rice has determined that Havre City Council member Rick Pierson was not elected to a four-year term in 2001 and will have to run again this year if he wants to keep his seat.
Pierson, a Democratic council member for 10 years, said today he won't seek re-election.
He said Rice's ruling had nothing to do with his decision.
"It's time for me to go," Pierson said. "Ten years is enough to be a public servant."
Rice looked into the question at the request of Hill County Clerk and Recorder Diane Mellem. Mellem said today the Hill County Democratic Party asked for a clarification after Mayor Bob Rice, a Republican, said he believed Pierson's term was only for two years rather than four.
Pierson was appointed to the position by the Havre City Council after a recount of the votes of his race against Republican Jerry Hanson in 2001. During the recount, Democratic observers noticed that the backs of three ballots were not officially stamped. The three ballots were thrown out, and the race was declared a tie.
The City Council broke the tie, voting 6-2 to name Pierson as the winner in the second ward.
David Rice's decision, made after consultations with the state Attorney General's Office, determined that since Pierson was appointed by the City Council and not elected, he must run again this year to keep his seat.
"Pierson's term runs to the current general election for city offices and he must file and be elected to continue in office for the last two years of the four- year term," Rice wrote in a letter dated April 25 to Mellem.
This year's general election occurs in November. Five City Council positions, including Pierson's, are up for election.
Only one of the council's eight members is a Republican. Four of the five council members up for re-election in November are Democrats.
Pierson's seat, as well as those of council members Douglas Larson, Jack Brandon, Emily Mayer and Gary Schubert will appear on the ballot. Schubert is the only Republican.
The deadline for filing is June. 26. The primary election is Sept. 9 and the general election is Nov. 4.
Brad Lotton, chair of the Hill County Republican Party, said today he thinks electing more Republicans to the council would help Mayor Rice get more things done.
"We expect to try to take control of the council this election," Lotton said. "This is their opportunity to make some advancements and some improvements in Havre."
Local Democratic Party chair Debi Friede could not be reached to comment on David Rice's decision.