Finkelmeier plan: Councilor proposes longer terms, staggered races

To avoid a potential political pitfall, a Wapakoneta City Council member suggested lengthening the terms of office for councilors and council president and staggering the terms of all city elected officials.

Councilor-at-large Tom Finkelmeier Jr. proposed a plan to extend the terms of councilors and council president to four-year terms from two-year terms. He also proposed having the council president elected the same year as councilors representing the wards and the mayor, auditor, treasurer, law director elected the same year as councilors-at-large.

“Every four years, the totality of the elected government of Wapakoneta could be voted out of office,” Finkelmeier told his colleagues during Monday’s council meeting. “I feel I have done a fairly decent job throwing myself in all there is to do and to learn with this job and I still feel I am barely scratching the surface, so it is a concern with me that we could lose the entire institutional memory of this legislative body.

“I would suggest we have a discussion that we propose to the electorate that the president of council office become a four-year term and stagger the term so the city could not lose its institutional memory of both the council president and the mayor at one time,” he said, presenting a chart for a possible new election cycle.

He noted the electorate would have to vote in favor of the change during a general election, which the 2012 November election is.

Council President Steve Henderson, who  placed the issue into a special committee, under the direction of Finkelmeier, favored a larger committee to review the proposal.

A special joint Health and Safety Committee and Communications and Rules Committee meeting is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. Jan. 17 to start addressing the issue. Communications and Rules Committee is chaired by newcomer 4th Ward Councilor Chad Doll, while the Health and Safety Committee is chaired by Finkelmeier.

Henderson favored the longer terms for councilors and especially council president as well as the staggering of the terms, a move he thought was a good idea when broached by former Council President Don Jump.

“I think the change makes sense for council and for the people of Wa-pakoneta,” Henderson told the Wapakoneta Daily News. “I think the move benefits the citizens because at no one time will the city lose all of the legislative experience gained in the last term — at the least some of the people serving will have two years in office.

“While I encourage new people to become part of the process and to seek political office in an effort to give back to their community,” he said, “there is a learning curve to sitting in these chairs and to wipe the slate clean would eliminate the experiences gained by current councilors, not only in this chamber but in their committees, and would ultimately slow down the legislative process and the responsiveness of council.”

Mayor Rodney Metz said he understood Finkelmeier’s reasoning behind the proposal, but the mayor advised the committee do its due diligence.

“I agree with the concept and other communities have done it successfully and unsuccessfully,” Metz said after Monday’s meeting. “One of the difficulties is they found it harder to adopt controversial legislation during the election cycle because it can split the council.”

He voiced some concern that the entire council and elected office holders could be voted from office under the current system.

“There are those dangerous years where everyone could be ousted from office and that has always worried me,” the mayor said. “This would eliminate the dangerous year where you could have everyone replaced and it does provide continuity for the electorate. No matter what we want the city to function and function effectively.

“There are a lot of day-to-day activities that an experienced council does help with so it makes sense to maintain at least some in office,” he said.

During the meeting, Finkelmeier gained the quick vocal support of two councilors — 2nd Ward Councilor Dan Lee and Councilor-at-large Dan Graf.

“I would like to see this council take this under advisement,” 2nd Ward Councilor Dan Lee said. “I would like to see this come to fruitition. It just makes sense.”