Parker councilmember resigns, citing prolonged absence

Renee Williams: 'My aging parents are across the street. I do not want to leave them.'

A screenshot of a July town council meeting.
A screenshot of a July town council meeting.
Nick Puckett
Posted

Parker Town Councilmember Renee Williams announced her resignation Thursday afternoon in an email to town staff and council.

Williams, elected in 2014 and reelected in 2018, has lived in Arizona since March to take care of her mother, she said.

“My aging parents are across the street,” she wrote. “I do not want to leave them.”

Williams’ resignation is effective Sept. 18.

“It has been a pleasure to serve and I hope I have left Parker a better place for the people who have made Parker their home and for the business community,” Williams said. “I urge you to choose your next leaders carefully as they will impact your lives more than you know. Your leaders should be in it for the best interests of all, not for themselves.”

The Town Council has 30 days to appoint an eligible person as defined in the municipal code or call a January special election. The decision to appoint, if applicable, must receive four “yea” votes from the remaining five councilmembers.

Mayor Mike Waid took to Facebook Thursday afternoon to address questions he anticipated regarding next steps.

“In the 12 years I’ve been here, this hasn’t happened,” Waid said.

This November, voters will elect three at-large councilmembers to a four-year term. All six Parker Town Council seats are at-large, meaning the seats are not divided by districts, as is the case with some municipal governments.  

“Although Renee has been in Arizona taking care of her ailing mom, she continued to be an active member of the Town Council and was fulfilling her council commitments,” Waid said in a Sept. 17 statement issued by the town. “Renee will be missed, and we wish her the best of luck.”

Parker’s Municipal Code Section 2.9 regarding Town Council vacancies says “an elective office shall become immediately vacant whenever an elective officer…absents himself continuously from the town for more than three (3) months without a leave of absence given by a majority vote of the entire town council in office at the time the vote is taken…”

Williams said in a Sept. 10 interview with the Parker Chronicle she did not intend to resign, and instead promised to continue to attend her obligatory council and committee meetings virtually. Williams said she plans to run for Douglas County commissioner in 2024.

Williams said she had made monthly trips to Tucson, Arizona, since September 2019 to take care of her mother. Williams often attended Town Council study sessions via telephone since fall 2019.

Even before the pandemic struck, Williams had attended most Town Council study session since at least fall of 2019 via telephone. The town established a new policy in February, prior to stay-at-home orders, allowing council members to attend study sessions via telephone.

But the policy at the time did not permit telephonic attendance of regular meetings, and councilmembers were still considered absent if they participated in study sessions telephonically. She attended regular meetings in-person through that period but still missed occassional meetings. 

Since the pandemic forced closures beginning mid-March, Williams has been attending all council meetings virtually, like the rest of council.  Town Council approved a resolution for a state of emergency March 13 under which all meetings were held virtually. 

On May 4, Town Council passed ordinance 2.01.070, an emergency ordinance permitting council to hold meetings by phone, electronically or otherwise, when a meeting in person is not prudent due to a health pandemic.  Parker Town Council resumed holding regular meetings in-person in July, with Williams attending virtually still. 

Williams said she is immunocompromised and did not want to have to make frequent trips to and from Arizona, risking her own health. Instead, she said, Williams decided to stay in Arizona.

Williams said she has been attending all virtual meetings for her respective boards and committees she sits on as a Parker Town Council liaison. She said she has also been able to operate her business, To The Rescue, an in-home care franchise.

Councilmembers are required to establish residency in Parker for at least one year prior to their election, according to the town’s municipal code. There are no other stipulations in Parker’s code regarding a council member’s residency while serving on council or how long he or she can be gone. The code states that the council essentially polices itself.

Williams has established residency in the same home as fellow Councilmember Debbie Lewis since September 2019, Williams said. Williams' active voter registeration is in Colorado. However, Williams’ most recent voter registration information lists her current mailing address in Green Valley, Arizona, a suburb of Tucson.

Williams’ voter registration also lists a Parker P.O. Box. 

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