While there are aspects of the city-manager form of government that are useful, Bexley's long-standing mayoral government is most effective overall for the city, members of the city's charter-review commission said at their Feb. 3 meeting at Trinity Lutheran Seminary, 2199 E. Main St.
The commission, which convened in November and includes 15 Bexley residents, is formed approximately every 10 years to study Bexley's charter and provide recommendations to city council concerning possible amendments.
The charter covers everything from building codes to how the city government's executive, administrative and legislative branches operate.
The city manager vs. mayor discussion came up when commissioners reviewed a list of topics that have generated debate in the community, commission chairman John Offenberg said. The main difference between city managers and mayors is that city managers usually are appointed by city councils to run a municipality's daily operations, and mayors are elected by voters, he said.
Bexley residents voted down the option to change to a city-manager form of government in the late 1990s, Offenberg said.
"It is my experience that people do like their system" of mayoral government, he said.
Commission member Eloise Buker said that while teaching and researching public administration at the University of Utah, she found city managers tend to have generalized academic and professional backgrounds in political science and management, whereas mayors tend to have a specific set of skills unique to each municipality. Buker said city managers often have little to no experience living in the communities where they serve, whereas mayors, like Bexley's Mayor Ben Kessler, tend to be longtime residents with extensive knowledge of local issues.
City managers "don't necessarily come from or stay in the city. Their jobs depend on them finding another job in another city and advancing themselves. Their average stay is seven or so years," Buker said. "Our last three mayors have had more expertise, both in terms of academically and in terms of experience (in Bexley), than any city manager that we could attract."
Commission member Becky Guzman, an attorney, said an example of Bexley's effective form of mayoral government is that she was able to work with Kessler in recent years to make changes to the mayor's court.
The changes include offering defendants public defenders, as well as community service for lesser offenses, she said.
"I don't know if those changes would have happened if we had a city manager," Guzman said. "I know that the mayor reaches out to me. He still is open and responsive and seeks feedback."
Offenberg said the commission has concluded its city manager vs. mayor discussion without taking any further action for the time being but would revisit the issue if any of the commission's six members who were absent from the Feb. 3 meeting raise the issue.
The commission's next meeting is 7 p.m. Feb. 17 at the seminar.