Starting in 2014, Paso Robles’ mayor could serve a longer term, if voters in November’s general election decide to grant that extension.
City Council members this week unanimously agreed to go forward with a ballot measure asking residents to consider lengthening the mayor’s term to four years from two.
Council members said that mayors need more time in office to focus on the issues before spending time to campaign for their re-election.
“Frankly, I think two years is too short a term for any office because you’re spending 50 percent of your time on your campaign instead of representing your constituency,” Councilman Fred Strong said.
Currently, the council is made up of one mayor on a two-year term and four council members on staggered four-year terms. One council member is also appointed as mayor pro tem every two years to serve as a backup in the mayor’s absence. All five members have equal decision-making power.
Having the mayor serve the same time length as council members would also help avoid a steep learning curve, Mayor Duane Picanco said.
The issue is not new. It came up 10 years ago — two years after the city’s voters chose to elect their mayor in 2000 after ditching an old method that rotated the top spot among the council members.
“Back when we first initiated it (extending the term), it was still new and we weren’t sure how well it would work out,” Picanco said. “People felt, at the time, that we could always come back and revisit it. And now we’re revisiting it.”
Mayor Pro Tem John Hamon mentioned bringing the discussion back at a council meeting earlier this year. Hamon didn’t immediately return calls for comment, but Picanco said they spoke about it when discussing the national election.
“I’m glad it’s (going) on the ballot so the people can decide. Because ultimately, it should be up to them,” Councilman Ed Steinbeck said.
The city has until Aug. 7 to determine what the measure will say, including whether the mayor pro tem seat would change to a four-year term, too. It could also include a stipulation that says a council member would have to give up his or her term in order to run for mayor, Steinbeck said.
As it is now, a midterm council member who runs for mayor and loses could come back to a council seat.
“I don’t have a hard and fast opinion on it, but that seems a little unfair,” he said.
Picanco, Strong and Councilman Nick Gilman are up for re-election this year. Politicians traditionally file in July.