Wed, June 26

Changing times may dictate changing plans for Jerome

Population-wise, Jerome is holding its own against the staggering growth challenging Arizona and the Verde Valley.

But that does not mean Jerome is immune from the impacts of growth.

Let's face it, the place is irresistible. Both locals and folks from all around the Grand Canyon State put Jerome at the top of their list of weekend getaway destinations.

So while things are relatively stable on the home front, the challenges and demands on the town continue to grow. So to do the demands and challenges placed on members of the elected town council.

That's why the town is making a wise decision in once again considering a return to staggering the terms of members of the town council. A vote on the issue may be on the 2006 spring municipal election.

A decade ago, Jerome changed its election structure from full-slate two-year terms to a staggered four-year plan. The town never gave enough time to prove the wisdom, or lack of, the move as a voter-approved citizen initiative returned the town to the status quo.

Indeed, that may be what is best for the town. Jerome is unique among Arizona municipalities in that it utilizes a council-commission form of government instead of the more common council-manager system. In addition to serving on the council, each council member is responsible for overseeing the operations of at least two specific functions of the town government. They serve as police, public works, water, fire, sewer, parks and recreation and youth commissioners.

After two years, most who serve on the council are more than ready to move on. Not every Jerome Town Council member has the perseverance of Jay Kinsella and Jane Moore. It's not at all out of the ordinary to have four or even five new members serving on the council after a two-year term expires.

And that's the problem with a full-slate, two-year system. You run the risk of losing the lessons of experience. You are guaranteed of always retaining that with staggered four-year terms as only two or three council members will be elected at any given time. You always have that carry-over of experience.

The question remains, however, if four years is too much given the extra demands Jerome asks of its council members under the council-commission form of government.

Between now and the spring 2006 elections, Jerome should plan a series of town hall like meetings with the many residents who have previously served on the council. Allow town residents to quiz them on the strain of the job vs. the strain of sometimes having a majority of inexperienced council members tackling jobs they are unfamiliar with.

Granted, the current system has served Jerome well. There is little to criticize about the way Jerome citizens and staff take care of their little town. But these are changing times in Arizona with changing demands. A change in governance structure may be in order for the town.