In an effort to get more people to the polls and to save the city money, the Smithville Municipal Election may be moved from June to August starting this year and from now on. The city election would still be held annually but it would run in conjunction with the county general election every two years.
During Monday night's meeting of the board of Mayor and Aldermen, the council voted 4 to 1 to have an ordinance drawn up making the change. Passage is required on two separate readings in January during special meetings before the measure can take effect. A public hearing is also required prior to second reading passage.
Mayor Taft Hendrixson informed the aldermen that its time for the city to notify the election commission calling for the city election, which is currently scheduled for the third Tuesday in June to elect a mayor and two aldermen. He said if the election is moved, it would coincide with the County General Election on the first Thursday in August. It would also mean that the terms of the incumbent mayor and two aldermen up for re-election would be extended by up to sixty days (just for this year). "I've talked with an MTAS representative and a lot of cities are doing this. We can have our election in conjunction with the August election. It saves a lot of money. I believe our last city election was eight to nine thousand dollars. That's what it cost us. But in conjunction with an August election it would probably cost twenty five percent of that. It would mean extending the term for whoever comes up this year about sixty days until the August election. We can change our election date to August by ordinance. That does not have to be a charter change. I believe you would see a greater voter turnout and it would save the city several thousand dollars. We will have to have two public (special) meetings in January to do this," said Mayor Hendrixson.
Alderman Steve White, who voted against the proposal, said that while he favors saving the city money and encouraging a larger voter turnout, he is concerned with the legality of making these changes by ordinance, when the city charter calls for the city election to be held in June. White said he preferred waiting until other changes are made in the city charter before making this one. "With the way the charter reads, you would have to be extending somebody's term and I don't think we can change that without the charter being changed. As the charter reads, our election has to be in June. If we move it to August then that's after our term is out," said White.
Mayor Hendrixson replied "But our terms will be extended. Myself, yours (Steve White), and Mr. (Cecil) Burger's term will be extended by approximately sixty days until the August Election this year. You can't extend terms by more than two years but you can extend terms by up to two years," said Mayor Hendrixson.
Alderman White continued "My thinking is that if we're getting some more changes ready for the charter, I think we might ought to go ahead and have the election in June this time and then if we decide we want to do that (change election date) go ahead and change the charter that way if we want to change the terms we can do all that as the next elections come up,"said White.
Alderman Gayla Hendrix said it only makes sense for the city to make this move now if it will mean more voter participation. "It seems to make sense. It saves money and I would like to see a larger turnout. Despite our best efforts, its very difficult to get people out for just a city election. They will come out to a general election," said Hendrix
Alderman Shawn Jacobs said he also supports the change
Mayor Hendrixson added that he favors changing the terms of office of the mayor and aldermen from two years to four years, but that would require a change in the charter. Any action on that measure would require passage by the aldermen and approval by the state legislature. "There's something else we may want to look at and that's a charter change to extend the terms of office to four years instead of two. That's something we can look at after the first of the year. Any charter change has to go to the legislature," said Mayor Hendrixson.
The aldermen have not yet taken up that issue.