Terms for Westlake's mayor, law director and council members could become staggered as early as next year's election if City Council agrees to put the issue before voters. It is one of several recommended changes from nine residents serving on the Charter Review Committee. Council is expected to receive the committee's completed report ahead of its Feb. 6 meeting.
Westlake's charter currently requires that elected officials run at the same time every four years. The committee agreed that the city would be best served if a change were made. To achieve that, it recommended the council president term in the November 2021 election be for two years. Mayor and law director would remain four years. As for council, three of six would serve four-year terms and three would serve two-year terms. The three top vote-getters would serve four-year terms, while the three with fewer votes would serve two-year terms.
The committee also is sending recommendations that address vacancies on various boards and commissions; reducing the number of signatures required on petitions to run for mayor, law director and council president; and adding flexibility regarding council meeting start times, among others.
According to the city charter, council has the authority to determine which, if any, proposed changes are placed before voters. Council also can rewrite the language of the committee's recommendations.
A review of the city's charter is completed every 10 years. Residents, who serve as volunteers, are appointed by a council member or the mayor.
At monthly meetings early in the review, the committee interviewed the mayor, law director, council president and each council member. Members also interviewed each of the city's directors as well as the building inspector and the police and fire chiefs. Each interviewee was allowed to suggest charter changes to the committee.
A scorecard was developed to organize the committee's work. It contained 85 items that members agreed to consider. To do that, they conducted additional interviews and research, including how other communities handle matters under consideration.
The committee then evaluated the information, held discussions and voted on whether to advance a change to council. Agendas and minutes of meetings have been posted on the city's website throughout the year the committee has deliberated.
Members discussed a proposal to eliminate the position of mayor and move to a city manager form of government. The committee did preliminary research on the proposal made by council President Mike Killeen and other council members, but ultimately recommended that a separate committee be formed to study the matter in depth.
Other issues that were considered, but not forwarded to council, included term limits for elected officials; appointment rather than election of the law director; appointment authority to the Charter Review Committee; and whether all proposed charter changes should go directly to voters.
Contact freelance writer Michele Murphy at firstname.lastname@example.org.