Our community is going through a difficult time on the heels of a great public and personal loss. Our hearts go out to the Welch family since theirs is the greatest loss. But, like all who grieve, this community must go on with the work of moving forward as we mourn the loss of Mayor Damon Welch.

There are 30 days between today and the Nov. 5 municipal elections. The Republican Party of Jefferson County will caucus Oct. 12 to select someone to fill the mayor’s chair until next year when the winner of the Nov. 5 vote takes office.

The city staff has worked to fill the gap and conduct city business without its longtime leader and friend. Dan Dattilo, the president pro tem of the council, was sworn in immediately after the mayor’s death, and is at work fulfilling his additional responsibilities.

The Republican Party, the party of which Mayor Welch was a member, will choose by caucus of the party’s precinct chairs the person who will be mayor until next year when the winner of the November election takes office.

The Republican Party should be thoughtful in its choice.

The interim mayor’s chair is a placeholder position that should not become an issue in the election itself. It is to be expected that the caucus will choose a Republican to finish the term, but we urge the caucus to avoid what might be a temptation to select Bob Courtney, the Republican candidate for mayor.

We’re not saying this to indicate our choice of who should be the next mayor.

We’re saying it because it’s a move that feels too much like partisan politics at a time when citizens have felt a common bond as they mourned Mayor Welch. We encourage the party to recognize that sentiment and avoid even the appearance of capitalizing on the situation. By choosing someone other than their candidate, the party would give voters an even greater voice.

Both candidates should be allowed to continue to conduct campaigns that focus on the issues facing the city and explain their plans about how to deal with those issues.

Courtney and Berry bring different backgrounds and experiences to the conversation, but they also bring a commonality of lifelong residency in this area and an understanding of its history.

While the candidates may see different ways to approach issues, let’s give both the benefit of acknowledging that they each want to do what they think is in the best interests of the city, the area and its people.

Voters need to educate themselves on the multiple competing issues that face the city. While we all have concerns ­— be they city services, historic preservation, streets, economic development, jobs or our pocketbooks — we also need to understand that our priorities on those issues may be different from those of our neighbors.

We don’t need yes-or-no questions such as “Are you going to pave my street.” While those questions may be vitally important to us, that puts the candidate in the position of responding with a yes-or-no answer without the candidate knowing what circumstances might occur to cause that commitment to have to change. Perhaps the better questions to ask of our candidates is what their priorities and goals would be and how they anticipate trying to accomplish those goals.

Both candidates in this race have experience that will benefit them in office. But, neither has been mayor. As former mayor Al Huntington said last week, when things go well, a mayor is rewarded with admiration and accolades, and when things go poorly, held to blame.

Whichever candidate is elected will have to grow into the office of mayor, just as that candidate has had to grow into previous roles. We should not try to lock that person into commitments now that may be impossible later. But, we should make them provide a window into what their priorities would be.

And, we should expect and require of the mayor to explain why if those priorities change. When the next election rolls around, we can pass judgment.

As of Friday morning, there were 8,283 registered to vote in the mayor’s race.

The turnout in city precincts in the May primary was just shy of 25 percent.

As voters, let us make every effort to at least double that primary vote percentage by end of day Nov. 5.

Remember, early voting begins Tuesday, Oct. 8.