Whitehall mayor wants to see term limits repealed

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Whitehall Mayor John Wolfe, who was kept from running for re-election in 2003 because of voter-approved term limits, is recommending that the city’s Charter Review Commission consider the elimination of those term limits.

Suggestions by Wolfe and other city officials for possible charter amendments, including a switch to a city manager, were presented to the commission at its first meeting April 24.

The commission will review the charter section by section, according to Chairwoman Amalee Soteriades.  After all suggestions are in by the last meeting, the commission will then decide which ones, if any, will be forwarded to City Council.  

If council chooses, they will have to be placed on a ballot for a vote in a general election.

Commission members were chosen by council earlier this year.  Also serving are two former council members, Greg Thurman and Tom Potter, and residents Dick Janusz and Heather Eskew.  

The commission convenes every five years for the review, and this is the third time since 1998 it has come together.  

One of the major changes then was passage of term limits, making it so that no elected official could serve more than two four-year terms in the same office.  

Residents overwhelmingly voted for term limits when it was placed on the ballot.

Wolfe’s second term ended in December, 2003, and he could not run again until last year.  

Along with wanting  to see  term limits overturned, he also suggested changing the city attorney’s position from an elected office to an appointed position subject to the approval of City Council.

Wolfe has suggested combining the city auditor’s and treasurer’s positions into one office.  The Board of Control now consists of the mayor, auditor and treasurer.  

Council President Brent Howard would like to eliminate an elected mayor, opting for a ceremonial mayor and adding a city manager. He also wants to consider having a law director replace the city attorney, having a financial director in lieu of  an auditor and treasurer, and the elimination  of the council president.

Howard also suggested staggering the elections of the mayor, auditor, city attorney, treasurer and council president.

Howard also said that the boards and commissions should be reviewed to improve efficiency and eliminating duplication of city functions.  Those boards include Planning Commission, Civil Service, Board of Zoning and Building Appeals, Board of Control and Parks Commission.

 

Auditor Kim Maggard would like to see the offices of the mayor, auditor, treasurer, city attorney and council president be on staggered terms, like ward council members and at-large council members.  They would still serve a four-year term.  At-large council members are in their first year of a four-year term, where ward seats will not be up for election again until 2009 to begin new terms in 2010.

Maggard also thinks that if a mayor can not finish a term, and there is less than one year remaining, and the council president declines to step up into the mayor’s position, council should be able to appoint a current elected official to fill the former mayor’s seat.

The auditor also submitted a suggestion to expand the qualifications of the auditor and treasurer, saying that they should be qualified for office by education, training or experience in matters pertaining to accounting, financial responsibility and other fiscal matters.

 

Councilwoman Jackie Thompson has been concerned about the local parks after two former council members expressed the possibility of selling Community Park for an income-generating office complex or condominiums.  

She wants to assure park lands are protected from any other use.  She also backs  term limits.

Regarding classified and unclassified positions, Howard suggested  that personal secretaries and deputies or clerks of city officials should be modified to consider the needs for any additional staffing positions required for the effective operation of government offices.

The charter review meetings are open to the public and are held in council chambers at city hall.  The remaining four meetings will be May 10 at 9 a.m., May 21 at 6 p.m., June 12 at 6 p.m. and June 28 at 9 a.m.

 

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