Since Atascadero voters approved cityhood a little more than 30 years ago and picked out five local citizens to serve on that first City Council, the mayor’s job has been shared by everyone on the council in a fairly regular manner.
The only exception was for Councilman George Luna — the mayor’s seat was withheld from him for a brief period by the rest of the panel.
But because of concessions by later councils, for the past dozen years, everyone has gotten a turn at the mayorship.
For the most part, I always thought the system worked just fine, and I didn’t see a reason to have an elected mayor.
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But I’ve changed my mind in the past five years and think the idea has merit.
Local voters will be asked, “Shall the electors elect a mayor and four council members?” on the Nov. 2 ballot. That is Measure E. Two other measures (F and G) ask voters to pick whether the mayor’s term should be two or four years.
Atascadero is the only city in San Luis Obispo County that doesn’t elect its mayor. That isn’t necessarily a valid reason that we should or shouldn’t.
I think Atascadero has reached the point where a permanent mayor for four years will provide continuity that could be beneficial to this community.
Two years isn’t enough time. I’ve never been a fan of term limits and wonder just what we gained when we went to term limits for our state legislators. Sometimes it could take two years just for a new mayor to learn the job. Most candidates for the mayor’s seat will more than likely come from incumbent council members.
The mayor would still have only one vote out of five so he or she would not carry any more power than anyone else.
If there is any power to be gained, it would be having a consistent face representing this community on state and county intergovernment commissions and boards, such as the San Luis Obispo Local Agency Formation Commission, the San Luis Obispo Council of Governments or the San Luis Obispo County Integrated Waste Management Authority.
Under the present system, any given mayor just gets up to speed and the year is over — time for everyone to rotate seats. City staff has to get accustomed to a new style and face, as do the citizens.
I would encourage Atascadero voters to vote in favor of electing a mayor and make the term four years.
I agree with those who believe having a mayor who is elected for a four-year term will put Atascadero on a level playing field with other cities with elected mayors in vying for grant funds or influencing policy and more.
Lon Allan has lived in Atascadero for nearly four decades. His column appears here every week. He can be reached at 466-8529 or firstname.lastname@example.org.