A significant change is in store for Hilliard after voters approved a charter amendment Tuesday, Nov. 6, that replaced the city’s "strong-mayor" model of government with a city manager.
Appearing as Issue 33, the proposal to change Hilliard’s form of government was opposed by the administration and did not have the unanimous support of Hilliard City Council, with President Albert Iosue voting against sending it to the ballot.
With all 23 precincts reporting Nov. 6, Hilliard voters approved Issue 33, with 8,379 votes in favor (58.5 percent) and 5,942 votes against it (41.5 percent), according to unofficial results from the Franklin County Board of Elections.
Supporters of Issue 33 gathered at a local pizzeria to monitor the results.
Councilman Les Carrier had supported the change from the start.
“The residents saw it was time for a change,” Carrier said.
City Councilman Tom Baker said residents “saw the need for professional management in a city our size.”
Iosue said he was not disappointed voters approved Issue 33 and did not have any expectations concerning its outcome.
“City Council is elected by the people to serve the people," Iosue said. "Whatever the citizens decide as to our form of government, City Council will work hard to fulfill the will of the people. I relied on the voters to determine the form of government.”
The change in governance to a city manager will not begin until Jan. 1, 2020.
Iosue said City Council would “work diligently” during the next 14 months to be prepared with a “qualified” city manager at the start of 2020.
Carrier said the search for a city manager would begin sooner rather than later.
“City Council will hire a firm to recruit a city manager,” he said, and that process would begin in the near future.
Doug Francis, director of information technology and communications for Hilliard, said “speaking on behalf of the city we cannot make any statements in regards to Issue 33” and the city was limited to providing “nonbias(ed) educational material” concerning the ballot issue.
Mayor Don Schonhardt will complete his fourth term as mayor which expires Dec. 31, 2019, but City Council is expected to begin the process of vetting a city manager much sooner.
Schonhardt was not available for comment Nov. 6 and has said little publicly in the months running up to the election. However, he said earlier this year that a transition to a city-manager form of government was a threat to the separation of powers in the current form of government.
In a council-city manager form of government, City Council will set a direction for the city and the city manager would be tasked with the day-to-day operations of the city.
A city manager serves at the pleasure of City Council, similar to a superintendent and school board.
The change to a city manager places Hilliard in the same company as many other central Ohio suburbs, including Dublin, New Albany, Westerville, Worthington and Upper Arlington.