One Common Council member is introducing a measure to amend the city charter by adding a city manager to help run the government, which would in turn weaken the authority of the mayor and finance commissioner.
First Ward Councilwoman Robin Wentworth, who lost a bid to become councilwoman-at-large last year, will introduce a plan to add a city manager during a public hearing Tuesday. The council is expected to vote on the amendment after a public comment period.
If the amendment is approved by the council, it will move to a referendum on the November ballot.
Mayor Dayton King said the new position would usurp any power either he or city Finance Commissioner Bruce Van Genderen has, rendering them “puppets of the Common Council.” King believes the proposal is an attempted power grab that is politically motivated because Wentworth was unable to win a citywide election.
“Wentworth couldn’t win her election, so this is her way of trying to get some power,” King said.
However, Wentworth feels that adding a city manager position will foster a more efficient form of government.
"Right now, the way it is set up, there are no qualifications to run for mayor," she said. "Anyone in the city can run even if they have no prior experience in politics."
She also said that, ideally, the city manager would have a bachelor's and master's degree in public administration or public policy.
She said that the idea to add a city manger is not a slight to King but instead should be viewed at as a viable way to improve the city government moving forward.
"It will not eliminate his position," she said. "He will become a part of the council and be able to make decisions along with the other six members."
Van Genderen likened the mayor’s position to the chief executive officer of a company and the finance commissioner to its chief financial officer. He said the city manager position would take on both of those roles.
If the referendum is passed be voters, the position would take effect in 2018, when King’s term expires. The city manager would be hired by the Common Council.
King said that while he expects the Common Council to pass the amendment, he believes it will be voted down.
“I was elected with 63 percent of the vote the last time,” he said. “No, I don’t think this will pass.”
King said the idea to create the new position stems from animosity between himself and a number of council members.
At a recent council meeting, Sixth Ward Councilman Wrandy Siarkowski told King he should resign if he is dissatisfied with his mayoral salary. King, 36, who doubles as an accounts manager for an insurance agency, said while he is underpaid he has never complained about the $40,000 annual salary.
He believes Siarkowski, who is in his 60s, and a number of other older council members are envious he is able to perform both duties.
“I am a young guy,” he said. “I think they are a little jealous and bitter that I can do both of these jobs on five hours of sleep per night.”
King said he splits time on both jobs and in total works about 70 to 80 hours per week.
Numerous calls to Wentworth and Siarkowski for comment were not returned.
King added some of the council members can’t comprehend how it is possible to work from a laptop or smartphone outside of the office.
“They are very traditional,” he said. “Older people don’t get that I don’t have to be glued to seat in my office to get work done.”
Van Genderen, who has sided with King on the Common Council power struggle, is not sure when the problems arose. King’s predecessor, Tim Hughes, also worked another job, but the council never questioned it, according to Van Genderen.
“This guy obviously has a lot of energy,” Van Genderen said. “He is here really early and really late and gets his work done.”
Discussions on ways to pull the city out of dire fiscal straits have stalled, King said, because “instead of putting their efforts into doing that, they are more concerned with personal issues.”
He added if the referendum is put on the ballot, residents will be able to decide who they want running their city.
“I hope people come out and voice any opinions they have on the topic,” Ling said.