Residents will vote in November on adding a city manager to help run the city after the Common Council approved an amendment to the city charter Tuesday night.
If the referendum is approved, the city manager would take over the mayor’s role of running the government. The mayor’s position would retain the title, but would become a voting member of the council.
The change would be made when Mayor Dayton King’s term expires in 2018.
“The city manager shall be the chief executive officer of the city, responsible to the Common Council for the management of all city affairs placed in the manager’s charge by or under this charter,” according to the legislation.
The council would hire the city manager, according to the legislation, which was approved by a 4-2 vote.
First Ward Councilwoman Robin Wentworth introduced the amendment because she feels a city manager will improve the efficiency of the government.
“Currently, anyone who is a registered voter can run for mayor,” she said. “The council will have the power to put someone in place who is qualified.”
In the past, King has said Wentworth’s proposal is politically motivated because she was unable to win election to an at-large council seat in 2013. At the meeting, however, Wentworth said she truly believes this is a better form of government and the move is not motivated by personal sentiments.
Sixth Ward Councilman Wrandy Siarkowski, who has expressed displeasure with King’s performance at previous meetings, said he wants to give residents the ability to choose which form of government they want.
“This will allow people to choose which form of government they want in this city moving forward,” Siarkowski said.
Second Ward Councilman Arthur Simonds, one of two council members to speak out in opposition to the amendment, said if people in the city are not pleased with the mayor, they should elect a person they feel is more qualified.
“If you aren’t pleased with the job he is doing, you should elect someone you feel would do a better job,” he said. “If this passes in November, the public will lose their right to choose who runs their city.”
A public hearing on the issue illustrated that not all city residents are convinced adding a city manager is the best way to improve city government. While some spoke in favor, others said voters need more time to understand how a city manager form of government would work.
John Castiglione, a city resident, said people have not had enough time to discuss the issue.
“People need to have more knowledge once they go to the polls,” Castiglione said. “This whole process has been rushed.”
One woman said the city is in need of improvement, and she believes a city manager would be in a better position to do that than a mayor.
“I looked into this a few years ago, and I was in favor of it then and I am in favor of it now,” she said. “We are in need of a professional to move this city forward.”
King said he is not opposed to the idea of adding a city manager, but he believes the process has been rushed.“In the end, people should be able to vote to decide which form of government they want,” he said. “And they will get that opportunity.”