The “Finkelmeier Plan” remained intact.
The plan now faces the scrutiny of Wapakoneta Law Director Dennis Faller and of Wapakoneta City Council ad hoc committee members comparing the plan to other municipalities who have enacted similar legislation.
During a meeting held Tuesday at the Wapakoneta City Administration Building, Term of Office Ad Hoc Committee members started vetting the “Finkelmeier plan” regarding staggering and extending terms of city elected officials.
The plan would lengthen the term of office from two years to four years for council president and all councilors and stagger the terms of office for council president with the mayor and for the ward councilors with councilors-at-large.
“I believe this is worth doing and I believe it is worth campaigning for,” Councilor-at-large Tom Finkelmeier Jr. told the Wapakoneta Daily News. “This is not about my office or any other current member’s office. It is my true belief that this is a better way to maintain civic experience in city government.”
The recent November general election sparked Finkelmeier to revisit an issue previously discussed between a former city elected official and himself.
He shared that the proposal arose from discussions between former Council President Don Jump “regarding continuity of leadership and institutional memory of the city government.”
He said while this is not “a terribly pressing issue,” he felt staggering terms of office, which also would require lengthening elected officials’ terms “is worthy of discussion because the possibility does exist of losing all tenured elected officials in one election cycle.”
“While I certainly believe in the public’s ability to vote out those elected officials they are displeased with, I now realize this job benefits from experience of tenured officials and I would like to see a staggering of the terms,” Finkelmeier said. “The history of the last several elections has shown us a lack of interest by the public in running for these positions so that puts us in a position if a group or a majority decided not to run like four years ago where several positions were filled by at-large candidates than we also lose a continuity of leadership and the institutional memory of city government.”
Finkelmeier, who is chairing the ad hoc committee, called Tuesday’s meeting of councilors to discuss the mechanics of the staggering of terms, the cost of placing a referendum before the public to make the changes and the timeline of implementation.
Councilors present — 4th Ward Councilor Chad Doll and councilors-at-large Steve Walter and Dan Graf — discussed public comments made to them. Nearly all people supported the staggering of terms, but some inquired about two-year terms instead of four-year terms.
Finkelmeier explained staggering two-year terms is impossible because the election of local officials cannot occur during a presidential election. This forced terms of office to four-year terms with the elections to be held in odd-numbered years.
They also determined the best way to proceed would be to maintain wards elected being in one cycle and councilors-at-large in another cycle to limit confusion and the ballot would be uniform. Finkelmeier explained to split up councilors-at-large would require a specific term of office for each seat instead of the top three candidates receiving votes being elected to office.
Councilors also provided continued support for staggering the mayor and council president since council president is acting mayor if the mayor is not available.
There would be a minimal cost to have the issue placed on the ballot for voters decide on the plan.
They also determined placing the issue before voters this year is not necessary, but if passed by voters would permit its implementation at next year’s election otherwise full implementation could be delayed years.
Finkelmeier said it was not necessary to place it on this year’s ballot, but he does want to make sure the city resolution to place it before the electorate receives three readings.
For the issue to placed on this year’s general election ballot, councilors would have to adopt legislation no later than their July 2 meeting.
“The next meeting we will report back to the ad hoc committee on other municipalities that have made the switch but remained under a statutory form of government,” Finkelmeier said, noting they intend to gather information from city clerks and other organizations. “We also want to get feedback from the law director on how the ballot issue needs to be structured and then hopefully move up to the full council for discussion.”
The next meeting will be scheduled at the Feb. 6 city council meeting.