Mon, June 24

Who chooses the mayor?<br>Clarkdale voters to voice opinion

Shall the Mayor of the Town of Clarkdale be directly elected for a two (2) year term of office by the qualified electors of the Town of Clarkdale at the Primary Election to be held on March 12, 2002, and thereafter be directly elected for four (4) year terms beginning with the Primary Election to be held March 9, 2004.

The office of every mayor is comprised of a lot of ceremonial robes.

There are ribbon-cuttings and proclamations and photo opportunities and a lot of official paperwork that needs signatures.

The residents of Clarkdale now will decide if the role should be more than just ceremony. The issue of a directly-elected mayor is on the primary ballot this year. Ballots began arriving in mail boxes Tuesday.

The way things are, the Clarkdale mayor is selected from among the five seated town council members and mainly serves as chairperson. The current council is itself in disagreement on the issue of having voters elect the mayor.

Whether Clarkdale is large enough to need a directly-elected mayor is part of the contention. Also up for debate is how such a move would affect the dynamics of the council and how the members work together.

The other side contends it is simply more democratic to have the voting public decide who the mayor is, and it may actually enhance the teamwork of the council.

Mike Bluff, currently running for reelection, said he felt compelled to put the issue forward when several residents asked him why voters did not get to select the mayor.

He said having a directly-elected mayor is practical and would help the town deal with changing issues.

If approved by voters, direct election of the mayor would take effect in two years.

The Clarkdale council has staggered terms, with three seats up for one election and the other two seats for the next. Because the 2002 election falls in the two-seat cycle, the voters would be choosing only one council member and a mayor. That being awkward, the council chose to make the first mayoral term just two years, then shift it into the three-seat cycle and make it a four-year term.

David Leibforth, who is running for council, said a town the size of Clarkdale does not have a lot of people from which to draw good candidates as it is. A mayoral race, he said, “would take excellent candidates out of the loop.”

If two council members in the same cycle decide to run for mayor, for instance, one obviously loses and is off the council until the next election.

Mayor Rennie Radoccia said he did not think an elected mayor was necessary for a five-person board at this time. He said the idea looks good only on the surface.

“I don’t think there is an upside to it,” he said. “The real downside of this, from my perspective, is that the mayor’s term is increased to four years, and the only way to remove the mayor is by recall election.”

He feels the issue was rushed through with no thorough discussion of the four-year vs. two-year term. Radoccia said a recent poll showed Arizona cities and towns who had switched to a four-year term now regret it.

“I feel it was short-sighted on the council’s part,” he said.

Under other conditions, he would have been in favor of it. Those include waiting until the 2004 ballot, having a seven-member council and having a larger population. As things are, Radoccia said the council might have “a better feel for who the mayor needs to be.”

Council member Jane Winiecki said she voted to put the issue on this ballot because of the number of people coming in and asking about it.

“I think that it’s a good idea,” she said.

Placing an elected tag on the mayor’s office would not necessarily result in more power or prestige. Winiecki said she did not feel it would change the workings of the council.