A Parker town councilmember has been out of the state since March and says she plans to be away until the COVID-19 pandemic is over.
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Councilmember Renee Williams has been in Arizona for six months tending to family matters, she said in a phone call Thursday with the Parker Chronicle. Williams was elected to council in 2014 and re-elected in 2018.
Williams said she does not intend to resign, adding she plans to run for Douglas County commissioner when her current term ends in 2022.
"Parker is my home," Williams said in a text message. "I love the town, the citizens and the businesses. I believe, as an almost 20-year resident, very-involved citizen and business owner, I am able to represent the town better than most."
Williams said she has made monthly trips to near Tucson, Arizona, since September 2019, to take care of her mother.
Her colleagues on council and town staff have been aware of Williams’ situation, according to a town spokesperson. No formal announcement was made by the town that Williams planned to leave indefinitely in March.
"When COVID started, I decided I wanted to self-isolate so I could take care of my mom," Williams said, "and if I get infected, I can't take care of my mom."
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.
Williams said she plans to return permanently to Parker once the pandemic is over.
"It really depends on COVID," Williams said. "As long as we're doing virtual meetings, I'm not really thrilled about hopping on an airplane."
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.
The remaining five councilmembers, excluding the mayor, must decide if action should be taken.
The Colorado Municipal Election Code says that leaving the state temporarily does not constitute a loss of residency.
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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