It's official: Hilliard voters will be asked via a ballot issue Nov. 6 to choose between the city's current "strong-mayor" model of government or a change to a city manager.
Hilliard City Council voted 5-1 on May 14 to send the proposed city-charter amendment to November's general-election ballot.
Council President Albert Iosue was the dissenter and council Vice President Kelly McGivern was absent.
Council members did not discuss the matter before voting and no residents attending the meeting commented, despite spirited discussions at previous council sessions and the city's charter-review commission meetings.
The ballot issue has been a long time coming.
Tom Baker, Les Carrier and Andy Teater campaigned on a city-manager platform during last year's election.
When Nathan Painter and Pete Marsh indicated last month they did not oppose putting the question before voters and council members asked Tracy Bradford, the city's law director, to prepare language for a ballot initiative, the measure appeared inevitable.
"It was a good vote for the community of Hilliard because it's not City Council's decision whether we change our form of government to city manager – it's something the voters in our community need to decide," Teater said after the meeting.
Teater said a city-manager form is "a more effective way to govern."
In a city-manager form of government, the manager is appointed and serves at the pleasure of City Council, in a similar manner to a school district's superintendent.
Carrier, who vowed to put the issue before voters via petition if council members had not acted to advance it, said May 15 he was pleased voters will have the opportunity to decide. He also has been adamant the question should go before voters in November before the filing deadline in February 2019 for mayor and City Council elections.
"I look forward to debate and discussion," he said. "It will be a great opportunity for our residents to engage in this dialogue."
Meanwhile, Iosue opposed a city manager since it was suggested and criticized city-manager proponents for moving forward with the matter before the charter-review commission had completed its work. The 11-member commission, which recommended Feb. 7 that the city not consider switching to a city-manager form of government, is expected to submit its final recommendations for potential charter changes to City Council in August, 12 months after it convened.
"When you put all the power in seven members of City Council to direct the city manager what to do, it puts all the power in one entity," Iosue said after the meeting.
Mayor Don Schonhardt, who seldom commented on the issue, previously said he opposes a city manager because it would erode the system of checks and balances between the executive and legislative branches of local government.
Iosue said he does not think the community is asking for a change to a city manager.
"Several members of council are pushing this forward ... for personal reasons (and) not what is best for the community," he said.
Prior to the May 14 vote, Painter proffered an amendment to create a line of succession in the event voters approve the charter amendment.
If Schonhardt, whose term does not expire until Dec. 31, 2019, leaves office for any reason, the amendment calls for the president of council to serve as mayor.
If the president cannot or will not serve as mayor, the members of council shall elect an acting mayor among them, and if no council members can or will serve, a department director shall be appointed as mayor, according to the amendment.