A year or so ago, when City Councilman Jerry Clay suggested that voters decide the issue of having an elected mayor, I was rather cold to the idea. I opined at the moment that I didn’t think it would make much difference. I suggested that our chance of getting stuck with a less-than-satisfactory candidate or a great one in the post is about 50-50.
Since incorporation by the voters in summer 1979, we have rotated the job among the five council members. Everyone gets a turn at the job, which lasts one year. Getting re-elected provides additional opportunities for any one person to be mayor.
Much like term limits, I simply had not warmed to the idea of having Atascadero’s mayor an elected position. At the state level, for example, I’m not convinced we’ve gotten any better politicians since we put term limits in place.
But the one thing I had not considered is consistency of the office.
Because Atascadero has a different mayor every year, there is very little consistency. It takes about a year to learn the job and then, boom, you’re done, and it’s someone else’s turn.
Now, I am beginning to lean toward the idea that having a mayor elected just for that purpose would give Atascadero some level of direction we haven’t been able to attain in the past. With that in mind, it becomes contingent on the folks who vote in Atascadero to be very careful who they put in the job. The mayor only has one vote out of the five on the City Council, but his or her presence at area meetings and on regional boards could carry more weight if he or she is in the job for four years rather than one. A single, long-term member on, say, the committee that hands out state transportation monies would benefit Atascadero over the long run. Our representative would learn the ropes and be a constant face for this community on such a board.
That wouldn’t hurt.
I think the term should be four years. Two aren’t enough.
I now think it is a good idea to put the idea before the voters. Let’s begin to talk it up and weigh the pros and cons regarding the election of our own mayor for this city of almost 30,000 citizens.
We’re big enough, and the stakes are high enough to put in place some consistent, long-term leadership for this community by having an elected mayor.
Reach Lon Allan at 466-8529 or firstname.lastname@example.org.