Plan moves on: Council to debate extending councilors time in office

Extending and staggering the terms of office for future city councilors now goes before full council for debate.

Wapakoneta City Council Term of Office Ad Hoc Committee members recommended Wednesday sending the proposal to full council for its consideration regarding extending the terms of the council president and all councilors to four years from two years and staggering the terms of council ward seats with councilors-at-large seats.

Councilor-at-large Tom Finkelmeier Jr., who chairs the Ad Hoc Committee, proposed the change to stagger terms of councilors at the Jan. 9 meeting. He also proposed extending their terms to four years since councilors cannot be elected during a presidential election, which would occur if they staggered the current two-year terms.

He continued to champion the cause again at Wednesday’s committee meeting.

“I think the city will receive the benefit number one of retaining experienced councilors at all times and number two of having councilors who can mentor new councilors on the complicated matters that we must deal with on a weekly basis,” Finkelmeier told the Wapakoneta Daily News after the meeting.

“Those complicated matters would be first and foremost the budget,” said the councilor-at-large, who is the newest member on the city’s Finance Committee. “The city’s budget is very large and fairly complicated. I think having experienced council persons who have been through multiple budget cycles on Finance Committee helps councilors, like myself, get up to speed more quickly.”

Councilor-at-large Steve Walter said some constituents expressed concern the proposal  would extend the terms of sitting councilors.

He and Finkelmeier clarified the issue.

“I think there is some confusion regarding the legislation and people think we are extending our current terms, but we are talking about changing the way the terms of office work in Wapakoneta,” Finkelmeier said. “If any incumbent on city council wants to enjoy that longer term, they have to campaign and win that seat in the upcoming election just as if they were running for a two-year term.”

Finkelmeier explained the council president would be elected the same year as councilors representing the wards and the city treasurer.

The councilors-at-large, who would be elected to one more two-year term, would join the mayor, auditor and law director in serving four-year terms starting in 2016 following the election in November 2015.

At the previous Term of Office Ad Hoc Committee meeting, Safety-Service Director Bill Rains requested Law Director Dennis Faller draft legislation for councilors consideration. The two draft ordinances were reviewed.

One of the ordinances extends the term of office for the council president, and the second ordinance would extend the terms of office for all councilors.

Finkelmeier said he would request Council Clerk Carlene Koch to include them in Monday’s packet for their first reading and for discussion among councilors.

The issue would be placed on the November general election ballot. The changes would not go into effect until the next election of councilors, which would be November 2013.