With Councillor Norm Brigden's resignation letter in Mayor Susan Roline's hands, Merritt voters can prepare to select his replacement for the next two years.
Brigden publicly announced his resignation, effective May 31, at Tuesday's regular council meeting.
"I leave behind a lot of great memories in this community and a lot of great friends."
Brigden explained that he was resigning because he had accepted a sales position at a Nanaimo forestry company. He and his wife, former City of Merritt economic development officer Deanne Parise-Brigden, plan to move to Parksville, about 38 kilometres from Nanaimo, in late June, he said.
Following the announcement, Roline wished him well in the future and thanked him for his service to the community.
"We will miss you at this table."
Roline told reporters after the meeting that although Brigden had spoken to her about his upcoming departure two weeks ago, she only received a written resignation letter on Monday.
Now that the resignation is official, the city can proceed with planning a byelection to fill Brigden's council seat, she said.
Roline said council must make a resolution at a meeting to select the chief election officer, who will most likely be deputy clerk Carole Fraser, who held the post in past elections.
Under the Local Government Act, the municipality must appoint a chief election officer "as soon as reasonably possible after a vacancy occurs."
The chief election officer must then set a general voting day for the byelection on a Saturday no later than 80 days after the chief election officer's appointment date.
Although the date is not yet confirmed, Roline and Fraser have discussed holding the byelection on Sept. 15, after the summer holidays and Labour Day weekend, the mayor said.
"We don't want to have a full-blown election in the middle of August."
Roline added that the city has to give candidates time to sign up and at least one month to campaign.
The byelection will cost a total of $15,000, similar to a general election, said Roline.
Although there is only one vacant office, the city must make the same preparations as in a general election, she explained.
Out of the four unsuccessful council candidates in the 2011 election, Jack Polmans and Harvey Keys have told the News they are considering running.
"I'm undecided, leaning towards a yes," said Polmans.
Larry Petrie and former councillor Shelley Sanders were unavailable for comment. In last November's election, Sanders lost by one vote to Coun. Alastair Murdoch, the sixth-place finisher.
Roline encouraged new candidates to enter the ring. A shortened term may attract more people who are curious about politics but nervous about a longer commitment, she added.
"It would be nice to have some more young blood."
Brigden told council and the audience that he did not expect to receive the job offer but it was too good of an opportunity to pass up.
"I'm looking forward to the new challenge," he told reporters following the meeting.
Brigden is a longtime fixture in the Nicola Valley. He has lived in Merritt for over 35 years and worked at Aspen Planers for the last 32.
"It wasn't a decision I made lightly," he said of leaving.
"I moved to Merritt in 1976. I had the privilege of raising my kids here."
He added that he still has children and grandchildren here and expects to visit often.
Brigden had served as a councillor from 2005-08. He did not run in the 2008 election in order to focus on provincial politics. However, he returned as a city council candidate in the 2011 election, winning 1,028 votes out of 1,785 votes and coming in third out of 10 candidates.