Political growing pains in Clarkdale, Jerome

That certainly seems to be the case now that we have the candidate slate in place for Clarkdale's spring election. This marks the first time in the town's history that voters will directly elect their mayor; a political route also taken in recent years by voters in Cottonwood and Camp Verde.

The up side to this is that Clarkdale voters have direct control over who will be their mayor. It eliminates the inside political game playing among council members over who they will select from within their ranks to serve as mayor.

That process in itself can cause divisions between council members that can inhibit their ability to work as a cohesive team.

In this particular election, another up side to letting voters directly decide who will be their mayor is that there is not a bad choice from among the two candidates. Voters will decide between two veteran town council members, both of whom have previously served with distinction as mayor.

Both Rennie Radoccia and Michael Bluff have a strong understanding not only of the key issues confronting Clarkdale, but their grasp of the regional issues that impact the entire Verde Valley and Yavapai County makes them the kind of leaders the Valley badly needs.

The up side, no doubt, is that there is not a bad choice in this spring's first-ever mayoral election in Clarkdale.

And that also represents the down side. Clarkdale is going to lose a quality leader on the council.

The true test of the wisdom of Clarkdale directly electing its mayor will be seen over time. Is there a deep enough pool of qualified candidates who want to serve on the council? Or, do we shortchange the potential of the council as a whole because the best candidates lose out on the chance to serve on the council when they run for the office of mayor?

A similar question needs to be addressed up the hill in Jerome. As usual, we have five candidates running for five available council seats this spring in the mountainside community. Again, you have to question how deep is the pool of qualified and interested candidates in Jerome? A slate of shoo-ins hardly inspires voter participation? It's as if people end up on the Jerome Town Council by default.

The solution is simple. Change the current two-year full-slate election cycle in Jerome to two four-year staggered terms. Then, every two years voters could decide on either two or three candidates and, hopefully, the competitiveness for the jobs will increase. The other up side to this strategy is that you always have the assurance of having someone with at least two years of experience serving on the council.

In both instances, these decisions represent political growing pains. The political choices you make are a lot like playing a hand in a poker game.

You win some. You lose some.

Dan Engler, dengler@verdevalleynews.com

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