A four-meeting discussion in 2018 on how the city of Abilene selects a mayor and vice mayor resurfaced in 2020 at a study session of the Abilene City Commission meeting Monday.
The swearing in of new commissioner Brandon Rein and incumbents Dee Marshall and Tim Shafer at the Jan. 13 meeting will be followed by the selection of the mayor and vice mayor.
And based on study session comments, the current selection process could change.
“I was reflecting on how it went last year and last year it was awkward,” said Commissioner Trevor Witt.
Witt said he favored having the mayor and vice mayor selected based upon the election.
“My opinion is to go back to the traditional way. Have the people select the mayor and vice mayor,” Witt said.
While it was never a written rule, traditionally the voting process selected the mayor and vice mayor with the highest two vote getters in the election eventually receiving the mayor’s gavel.
“I am the one that threw the monkey wrench into the whole thing,” said Commissioner Angie Casteel.
Casteel was in line to be mayor in 2014 but later declined the title while helping her parents two states away. She said she felt she didn’t have the time to commit to being mayor. Brenda Finn Bowers assumed those responsibilities.
“It just felt like it was not fair to the commission or the city for me to assume the mayor’s position when I didn’t know if I could be actually counted on,” she said. “Then things got gummed up after that and it never got back to tradition.”
Again in 2016, Kari Payne Bowers declined the gavel and Dee Marshall was elected mayor.
Last year the top vote getter was Terry Chaput but he resigned in 2018. Shafer was elected mayor for a second year after he changed his nomination during the selection process.
“I think there is some wisdom in the vice mayor being mayor just so you have the year learning the ropes,” Casteel said, noting she will not be voting.
“I like it structured. It will alleviate any second guessing. It will alleviate anybody challenging,” said Commissioner Chris Ostermann. “If you are in a mayor’s role or a vice mayor’s role you know you are going to have to spend extra time on certain things. At least you have expectations.”
Shafer said serving as superintendent at school districts, the president of school boards was always selected by a vote of the board.
“This is contrary to that,” Shafer said.
Interim City Manager Jane Foltz said the current city code has the mayor and vice mayor being elected on the second Monday in January.
“The mayor will preside at all meetings of the city commission and shall serve as an official head of the city on formal occasions during the term of office,” she said. “The vice mayor shall serve in the absence of the mayor.”
That was approved on March 20, 2018 after the city elections were changed from spring to fall.
“I think the ordinance stands. It’s just how you want to elect your mayor and vice mayor,” Foltz said.
Using the traditional method, Vice Mayor Chris Ostermann would move into the mayor’s chair. Then the highest vote getter in the election, Brandon Rein, would be vice mayor. The following year the second highest vote getter, Dee Marshall, would be mayor.
Commissioners are expected to review an ordinance changing the mayor selection process at the next regular meeting.
At the study session the commission also reviewed the development agreement with Narayan, Inc., which is in the process of building a new Holiday Inn Express in north Abilene.
Tax incentives include:
• The issuance of industrial revenue bonds for the purpose of property tax and sales exemptions;
• The creation of a community improvement district of 2 percent for 22 years;
• The rebate of 3 percent of the transient guest taxes collected for a period of 10 years.
Hearings are expected to be on the next regular meeting agenda.
Also expected to be on Monday’s agenda is authorization to receive $150,000 in funds from the Federal Aviation Administration.
Finance Director Marcus Rothchild said the money could be used for the Airport Improvement Program which is in the works.
Commission meetings are now being streamed live on YouTube.
To find the channel on a web browser, go to the Abilene web page, Abilenecityhallo.com, click on Local Government in the upper left hand corner. Next click on city commission. Finally click on YouTubeChannel in the middle of the page.
Contact Tim Horan at email@example.com.