Council Votes to Have President Undertake Mayoral Duties Until April Election
OnFocus – Marshfield Common Council tonight further discussed options regarding the open position of Mayor in the City. Earlier this month, the Council discussed three potential options, with the possibility of a fourth being introduced.
As provided under Wisconsin Statutes Chapter 17 .23( 1 ), Council has three options to fill this position through the current term until the 2022 spring election:
- Solicit applications from interest parties, including letters of interest/resumes, in which candidates will present themselves to the Council. The Council would then vote to appoint a successor to complete the balance of the current term.
- Hold a special election. Based on information provided at our last meeting by the City Clerk, the earliest that an election could take place would be sometime in July, with an expected cost to the City of approximately $15,000-$20,000.
- Allow the Council President to fulfill the required duties of the position and let the Mayor position stay vacant until the next municipal election in April 2022.
On April 13th, another option was offered: the council-manager. In Wisconsin, 10 cities and 9 villages operate with this form of government.
Currently, Marshfield has both a Mayor position and a City Administrator position. The City Administrator is the chief administrative officer of the City, reporting to a part-time Mayor (CEO) and a 10-member Common Council. The City Administrator presents an annual budget recommendation to the Mayor and Council, is responsible for oversight of five departments (Public Works, Technology, Parks & Recreation, Planning & Economic Development, and Finance), and also serves as the City’s Personnel Director.
If Marshfield wanted to adopt a different governmental structure, there must first be a charter ordinance, which requires a 2/3 vote. Citizens then have 60 days in which to petition for a referendum on the ordinance.
In a Council-Manager setup, the manager has all executive/general administrative authority conferred by general law and special charter on the council, the mayor and the various boards/commissions and officers and in force in the municipality at the time it reorganized under Wisconsin Statutes Chapter 64. The manager has the power to create minor administrative offices and positions, and to discontinue such offices and positions. A manager may appoint/remove all department heads (subject to § 62.13, which governs police/fire commissions and police/fire chiefs).
During the meeting, City Administrator Steve Barg outlined these powers/duties of a city manager and presented his job description.
“If the Council has interest in this approach, I still suggest that you choose one of the other options to get us through the coming year as we give this further study and consideration,” said Barg.
“A few weeks ago when we initially talked about this, I shared that I was leaning towards allowing the president to continue running the meetings for the foreseeable futures,” said Alderman Adam Fischer. “The reason I initially said that was one, I was not excited about the price tag of a special election. I also do not want to see us appoint anyone to fill the position. I do think it should be an election. If my colleagues truly want a special election, I would go along with that.”
Fischer also added that he doesn’t have the same appreciation for the position of a mayor.
“Personally with our system of government, we have a ‘weak mayor’ system. The way we operate, the position of the mayor is a glorified figurehead. There’s some power. They can veto, can break a tie, but for the most part, our City is run by City administration and I think they area doing a good job,” he added. “If the public and the City truly wants to have an election and they want it now, I will support that.”
“The last time we spoke about this, I thought that what we should do is hold a special election as soon as possible to begin the healing process. But, I’m not sure an election would bring healing. I think it would divide the city even more,” said Alderman Ed Wagner. “I’m suggesting that maybe we keep this going until April. Let’s see how it works.”
“I think this position should be elected by the people and I think we should plan on voting in April,” said Alderperson Rebecca Spiros, who made a motion to that effect.
The Council also requested presentations on the various potential forms of City government that could be possible.
Council President Nick Poeschel stated that he did not seek the role of mayor and has no plans to do so, but accepted the position of President and will serve in that to the best of his ability.
The motion to allow the Council President to fulfill the required duties of the position and let the Mayor position stay vacant until the next municipal election in April 2022 passed unanimously. There will be no new mayor until April 2022, at which time the election would originally take place.
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