Wed, Oct. 16

Changing face of Jerome Town Hall

No community in the Verde Valley faces more change in the coming months than Jerome.

Some of that change may come as early as this month when the town council decides who will serve as Jerome's mayor over the next two years.

There is a tradition of sorts in Jerome that the person receiving the most votes in the spring council election will assume the mayoral chair. That's not a given, however, based on a precedent set by current Mayor Jane Moore. When Moore was the top vote-getter in an election some years back, she passed on the mayoral chair in favor of then-mayor Jay Kinsella.

This time around, John Bouwman received two more votes than Moore did in the March primary. By tradition, that means he is next in line to serve as Jerome's mayor.

Or does it?

In the May general election, Nancy Stewart and Rebekah Kennedy both received more votes than Bouwman did in the primary. Gil Robinson received 104 votes in the May election, equal to what Moore tallied in March and two off Bouwman's March tally.

So, based on "tradition" does that mean Stewart is next in line to be Jerome's mayor? No one in either Jerome election this year was more popular with the voters than she was.

Jerome would be served best by tossing tradition out the window and allowing Moore to continue as mayor. She has the best across-the-board experience of anyone on the council. She has the most years of service of anyone on the council. She has the best grasp of regional and county issues of anyone on the council.

Better yet, Jerome should forget this "tradition" nonsense and do like every other municipality in the Verde Valley and have a direct election of mayor.

Even more important than the potential changing of the mayoral guard is the change in Jerome's basic government structure. For years, Jerome has operated under a council-commission form of government in which council members serve as quasi-department heads. Jerome voters have now opted for a council-manager form of government.

This change means council members will have to learn new roles. No longer will they be hands-on participants in the day-to-day activities of town government, but, rather, they will be policy makers. The town manager will be responsible for carrying out those policies and the operation of the town.

Jerome has been well served by the council-commission system of government, thanks to a tireless work ethic by those who serve on the council. But it's an outmoded concept. Jerome, in fact, may be the only municipality in Arizona that uses this system of governance. It's really asking too much of unpaid elected officials to take on the role of a municipal department head in this day and age.

It's led to the burnout and one-term service of too many council members in Jerome.

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