Exeter Council foregoes costly special election, will appoint Dist. A resident to fill Teresa Boyce’s seat
By Paul Myers @PaulM_SGN
EXETER– Exeter City Council decided how they want to move forward in filling former mayor and councilwoman Teresa Boyce’s seat at their meeting last week.
Since her tragic fall in March, Boyce has resigned from her term that began last December on May 1. Her resignation has left the council with the decision whether to hold a costly special election or appoint a new member from the District A. As a much more cost-effective measure to holding a special election the Council decided on May 14 that they would rather appoint a replacement to fill Boyce’s seat on the dais.
According to city manager Adam Ennis holding a special election would cost between three and four thousand dollars. Barbra Sally, the latest member to be appointed to the council succeeding her late husband Dale Sally Jr., said she wasn’t for a special election.
In order to fulfill the 60-day requirement to appoint Boyce’s replacement the Council has until June 30 to find a replacement. They ultimately decided at their May 14 meeting to put out a notice to accept applications from District A. Councilmember Frankie Alves requested there be a map attached to the notice so residents can see where they would have to live to be eligible to apply. Last year was the first time Exeter elected council members in a district format. This was a forced break away from the at large elections Exeter had done for its entire history until 2017.
By November of 2018, Boyce was the only one challenged for her seat. Mary Waterman-Philpot was elected in lieu for District D. Frankie Alves was also elected in lieu for District C, ultimately replacing former councilman Gordon Gerdes.
Boyce said in an interview with the Sun-Gazette last month that her challenger in the November 2018 election might be interested. Melanie Morton fell shy of winning the District A city council seat by 45 votes, 249-205.
During the 2018 race Morton said she had been regularly attending city council meetings to stay up to date on the issues facing the City, but she notes her involvement in several service organizations makes her a qualified candidate for council. According to Morton she’s active in Exeter Relay for Life, Support Helping One Woman (HOW) and serves as an ambassador with the Exeter Chamber of Commerce for Exeter United Methodist Church.
Morton also pointed to issues such as road repair and water infrastructure. As of late, the City has moved toward strategizing long-term solutions to water infrastructure, and the city’s two most traveled roads (Visalia Road and Palm Street) are already slated for improvement. Ennis noted two weeks ago that they are attempting to schedule contractors for both projects.
According to city clerk Shonna Oneal, whoever is appointed is only ensured a seat for two years. Because Boyce stepped down early in her 4-year term ending in 2022, the person who takes over will have to give voters in the district a chance to cast a ballot for them in 2020. Whoever is elected will then serve the remaining two years of Boyce’s term where they will have to run again to retain it.
Boyce, who spent 10 years as an Exeter council member and mayor, made a tough decision two weeks ago to take an early exit from her third term. Boyce shattered the bone just below her knee the day before her birthday on March 24. She said it was a beautiful Sunday afternoon. While her husband was mowing the yard, she picked somethings up off the patio. When she went to walk away her foot got caught on a chair and ultimately caused her to trip.
“It was pretty bad. Kind of shattered,” Boyce said.
Boyce had surgery to fix it on April 1, and a steel plate was installed to keep the bone fragments from breaking off. Tougher still, she cannot put weight on the leg for at least a month. The lack of mobility forces her into a wheel chair for the foreseeable time being and limit the scope of things she can do, like make it to council meetings.
“[After surgery] gave me a lot of time to lay there and think. I can’t get myself places. So being in the wheel chair I can get in the truck but I can’t get the wheel chair in the truck…I’ve already missed three meetings and I got to thinking it could be four months like this and I need to concentrate on healing,” Boyce said.
The former mayor added that it was best for her to take her time and concentrate on healing. But also said that she didn’t want to give anything less than her full attention and commitment to the Council.
“I don’t want to leave the city in a bind so I decided to step down. Maybe in a year or so I’ll decide to do it again but I’ll always be doing something in town,” Boyce said.
She says that she might have fallen as a result of the life threatening illness she suffered from three years earlier
In 2016 Boyce had a come-to-Jesus moment that turned her life upside down and around for more than three months. Waking up in a panic and unable to breathe, Boyce had to be hurried to the emergency room. Boyce describes the experience as a searing pain from her back through her chest. Doctors thought it might be her heart but tests came back negative and sent her home.
The next time she was rushed to the hospital was because her face was drooping, similar to a stroke. Boyce said her doctors told her it was bells palsy and it would go away, and sent her home again. The paralysis soon spread throughout much of her body. When she couldn’t get out of bed, she went to the ER a third time and waited 18 hours. Since this was her third visit in a 10-day span, doctors checked her for almost everything to try and eliminate what it wasn’t.
By the time doctors were forced to do a spinal tap to test for Guillain-Barre, Boyce was nearly completely paralyzed. She added that some people with the disease have to be intubated and fed with a tube because they can’t breathe or swallow. Luckily, she had received care before that.
Boyce believes she had received the disease from an obscure bite while she was on a cross country trip with family.
“When we were in Colorado, we stopped to use the restroom and when I got back in I noticed something bit me. I remember it because it was very odd because it had a hard top to it,” Boyce said.
After she was treated Boyce went through five weeks of intensive rehabilitation to gain back sensitivity in her legs and feet, which never fully returned. She said that is likely the reason why her foot got caught on the chair on her patio, she couldn’t feel it.
Boyce took her harrowing life event and let it open her eyes to the things that are possible in life. When it came to the Council she wanted to have a bigger voice. In the past she was asked if she wanted to be considered for mayor. Normally she would humbly decline, letting someone else take the center seat.
“I would say no, no, no, you guys go ahead. I felt good just to be on the council and just serving. I enjoyed serving the community,” Boyce said.
After Guillain-Barre, things changed.
“I remember saying that if I ever get out of this I’m going to be mayor, it was my goal to reach the 25-year milestone at my job and I reached those things. And when we got back into council and we were choosing mayor I said yes I will go for it,” Boyce said.