Hutto said the Wilson County Commission is required by state law to fill the position within 120 days of the vacancy.
“Since we have knowledge of this vacancy prior to its occurrence, we have asked our county attorney Mike Jennings his opinion if we could proceed with the process to fill the vacancy,” Hutto said. “Jennings saw no reason we could not move forward so our court docket in January could be handled on time and the new judge selected would have proper time to transition.”
Hutto said he received Gwin’s retirement letter Sept. 17. Public notice must run in the newspaper a minimum of seven days prior to the commission meeting when the vacancy will be filled to advertise the position to be filled.
“We will run the advertisement for the full month of October,” Hutto said.
He said the position would be filled during the Nov. 19 Wilson County Commission meeting. The process, as outlined in state law, on how to select the person to fill Gwin’s seat on the bench is specified in the commission’s rules of order.
Hutto said once the commission appoints a judge, he or she will have until Dec. 31 to get everything in order and will take office Jan. 1. The appointed judge will be in office until the next general election on Aug. 6, 2020. The judge who wins the election will finish the term Gwin began, which will end in 2022.
Prior to the Nov. 19 commission meeting, Wilson County registered voters will be allowed to submit names for consideration, either during the commission meeting or to Hutto prior to the meeting.
During the Nov. 19 meeting, the residents will be allowed to submit names to the commissioner who they would like to see as general sessions judge during a public comment period.
After the public comment period has ended, the commission will go back into regular session and review the nominations received during the public comment period. At that time, commissioners will make their nominations for Gwin’s replacement. Though public comments will be accepted and considered, commissioners will make official nominations. A commissioner can nominate an individual recommended by residents, provided the nominated person agrees, in writing or during the meeting, to serve. A commissioner can, however, choose to nominate an individual who was not discussed during the public comment period, if the person agrees in writing or is present during the meeting. Should a commissioner nominate an individual not present at the meeting, the commissioner who makes the nomination must present a signed statement by the nominee that he or she is willing to serve should they be elected. There is no second required to the nomination.
After nominations end on the floor, those nominated will be given a chance to address the commission. Nominees will be asked to make a brief statement about themselves and why they seek the position. Only those nominated by a commissioner will be allowed to address the full commission. There will be no public comment period after nominations are submitted.
Commissioners will only be allowed to vote to fill the vacancy. Commissioners will use paper ballots to vote. It will take a majority vote of at least 13 votes on the first ballot to fill the vacancy. If there is a tie between two nominees, the nominee with the lowest number of votes will be eliminated, and a second vote will be taken. The process will continue until one nominee receives a majority of 13 votes from the commission.