After announcing his bid for the Texas House of Representatives District 62 seat currently filled by Rep. Larry Phillips, Kevin Couch will officially resign from the Sherman City Council during its meeting Tuesday.
Couch was elected to the council in 2015 and his term isn’t set to expire until next year, but he said he decided to step away from the role and then learned Texas has a resign to run law that would have required it as well.
“I’m resigning basically to fully focus on my endeavor to run for state representative,” Couch said. “My resignation came from a personal decision, we did find out quickly thereafter that there is also a state law, even though our charter does not call for it, it is a state law.”
Couch said the political consultants he’s working with from Austin, Axion Strategies, found the law that basically says his formal announcement of his candidacy for the District 62 seat is considered his automatic resignation from the council.
When Grayson County Sheriff Tom Watt was serving on the council last year while running for his current position, City Attorney Brandon Shelby said the Texas Constitution prohibits elected officials from holding more than one office at a time. At the time, no one raised any issues with Watt running for the county sheriff position while serving the city. Shelby was unavailable for comment Friday, but City Manager Robby Hefton said his understanding was Couch’s announcement automatically terminated his seat.
But no matter the law, Couch said he was planning to resign either way.
“I don’t think it’s fair to Sherman citizens that I’ll have my time divided between two roles,” he said.
When reached by phone Friday afternoon, Phillips declined to comment on whether he plans to run for the District 62 seat again. Couch is running as a Republican, meaning he would square off with Phillips in the primary election for the position. Phillips said he is currently focused on Texas’ recovery efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.
“I will be making an announcement at the appropriate time,” Phillips said. “I don’t think politics is appropriate to talk about right now. Let’s focus on what’s going on in Texas and there’s going to be plenty of enough time for politics in the future.”
At-large, Place 1 seat
Hefton said the council has three options for the at-large, Place 1 position Couch is vacating — let him continue to serve until the next election, appoint someone or leave it vacant.
“What is required is they’ll have to call a special election for Nov. 7,” Hefton said. “The regular election has already been called, so a special election will have to be called and I believe the goal is to get that called for the same date as the other (election).”
Mayor David Plyler said the city received clarification from the Texas Attorney General’s Office that any appointment would only be until the election in November. He said after the council accepts Couch’s resignation on Tuesday, it will then have to call the special election during its next meeting, which is currently set for Sept. 18.
“Then people would have 10 days to file for the seat and it would be on the ballot in November,” Plyler said, explaining he’d like to see someone appointed to the position. “The easy thing would be not to worry about it, but I really feel like our citizens deserve full representation on the council. The appointment would only be for a month, so we’ve got to work through do we appoint somebody for a month and who that person is and that sort of thing.”
Plyler said appointing a former council member would likely make the most sense so the person wouldn’t need a learning curve for the month.
“They’ve got to hit the ground running,” Plyler said. “There’s been a couple of names thrown around but until we really get in there and see what the council feels, it’s just hard to say.”
Couch said he has not made any recommendations on who he thinks should take his seat.
“The mayor may or may not make an appointment, I don’t know,” Couch said. “It’s kind of whatever their (the council’s) appetite is — that’s their decision at this point.”
Couch’s last meeting
Couch said he would be attending Tuesday’s meeting, though he wasn’t sure what his role would be as he’s already turned in a letter of resignation to the city. Hefton said his presense will really just create a clean separation.
“He wouldn’t come and be voting on anything,” the city manager said. “He would just come, take his seat and before the meeting starts basically explain what’s going on.”
As the special election that will be called for the at-large, Place 1 seat will just be to fill an unexpired term, the seat will be up for election in again in 2018, which means Couch will have the opportunity to run for it again if his state representative bid is unsuccessful.
“I fully intend to run for at-large, Place 1 in 2018 if my bid for state rep does not go the way I plan it to,” Couch said.
Herald Democrat Executive Editor Jonathan Cannon contributed to this article.