The Dayton City Commission on Friday voted to hold a special election on May 8 to replace Commissioner Joey Williams, who has resigned after 16 years in office.
Two well-known faith leaders have already declared for the seat: Darryl Fairchild and Daryl Ward.
Though Williams was re-elected to a fifth term in November, he officially stepped down Friday, a decision he says was motivated by a more demanding travel schedule related to his new job.
The election is 74 days away, but Dayton residents who wish to replace Williams have just two weeks to collect 500 signatures of registered Dayton electors to appear on the ballot. The deadline is March 9.
That is a tall order considering that commission hopefuls usually have months to acquire the necessary signatures, said Fairchild, who has run for the seat twice before.
On Friday afternoon, Ward, the senior pastor of Omega Baptist Church, announced he is dropping out of the Montgomery County Commission race to instead run to try to replace Williams on the city commission.
Fairchild said the timing of Williams’ announcement seems deliberate to create a short window to discourage people from running. Dayton municipal special elections must take place 60 to 90 days after a vacancy on the commission.
Fairchild, the manager of chaplain services at Dayton Children’s Hospital, fell just 208 votes short of winning a spot on the commission in 2015, when he was edged out by political newcomer Chris Shaw.
He and another challenger were defeated by a much larger margin in November 2071 by Williams and incumbent Commissioner Jeffrey Mims Jr.
Fairchild said since November’s election, Dayton has seen some of the negative consequences of failing to address the issues he says he prioritizes, including neighborhood development.
“We have Good Sam closing, we’ve got schools potentially closing, we’ve got Aldi’s closing and we have threats to our water well field,” he said.
Fairchild said he would push the city to develop a comprehensive plan for its neighborhoods, similar to the plans the city has for downtown and the Webster Station neighborhood.
At a Friday press conference, more than 40 people joined Ward at the Montgomery County Board of Elections to show their support as he took out a nomination petition.
Ward was flanked by family members and friends and the crowd included all four members of the Dayton commission and Montgomery County Commissioner Dan Foley.
Rev. Ward said he is running for commission because of his love for the city and its citizens.
Ward said he was very sick several years ago, but though his body was shutting down, his vital organs were intact and strong.
“That’s like Dayton — we’ve got a lot of problems, but we have people, we have water, we have the strength of a wonderful history,” he said. “I would be so proud to be a part of helping that history become a bright future.”
Ward said his best traits are his maturity and wisdom and he’s an excellent listener who is detail-oriented.
Dayton’s last special election to fill a vacancy was in June 2001, when Edythe Lewis won a seat to complete the term of her husband, Lloyd E. Lewis Jr., who died about three months earlier.
Office-seekers had a short window to file a petition after the city had passed an ordinance calling for a special election: Just 10 days.
Edythe Lewis finished the last remaining months on her husband’s first term in office.
Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley said it will be challenging for Dayton residents who want to serve on the commission to get the signatures they need in two weeks. But, she said, it’s been done before in even shorter time frames.
“It can be done, it just takes incredible organization, which is something you need to be a city commissioner anyway,” she said.