Strong-Mayor Form Of Government In Casper Gains Support
A Casper City Councilwoman said Tuesday she would sign a petition for a referendum on whether to change the city manager form of government used by the city for more than 60 years to a strong mayor system.
"I personally feel as though I would sign this and let the public speak," Amanda Huckabay said at the end of the regular council meeting.
She did not outright advocate a change from the current city manager to a strong mayor system, but she thought it was worth considering.
"I believe this form of government has been in place since 1953, and I think that there are probably drawbacks (and virtues) to each of those systems, but I think that that is something the general public should decide," Huckabay said.
She was responding to comments earlier in the meeting from resident Keith Rolland who said he supported former Councilmember Keith Goodenough's circulation of petitions for a referendum to change the form of government.
Casper's current form of government involves voters electing a city council.
In this system, council members choose the mayor among themselves usually for one-year terms. The mayor, currently Kenyne Humphrey, serves in a first-among-equals position to run meetings and be the face of the city.
The council hires a city manager to oversee the departments that make the city function including public safety, recreation, streets, water and sewer, and waste management.
The city manager serves at the pleasure of the council. Some city managers have held that position for a long time, such as Tom Forslund who was manager for 22 years until he left in 2011 to become the director of the Wyoming Department of Health.
But with the hiring of John Patterson that year, critics such as Goodenough have said the roles of council and manager essentially reversed, with the manager having more sway over the council.
Patterson's management style was controversial as seen with Councilman Craig Hedquist filing a federal civil lawsuit alleging he and other city officials conspired against his political ambitions -- including the use of illegal police surveillance -- and future city contracts for his construction company.
U.S. District Court Judge Alan Johnson dismissed Hedquist's lawsuit last month. This week, Hedquist appealed that decision to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals this week.
Rolland said the city is now in the process to hire a new city manager. If that person comes from outside Casper, he or she will know virtually nothing about personality of the city.
In a strong mayor system, voters elect a person who works full time and oversees the city's operations like a city manager does. Cheyenne has such a system.
Rolland said a mayor in that system would be more responsive to the public.
"If you vote for somebody for mayor, you vote for somebody's who's been here for a while," he said. "You wouldn't vote for somebody who just got here last week."
To get on the ballot, the petition would need 3,700 of qualified electors, Rolland said.
State law says the qualified electors residing in a city are equal in number to 15 percent of the number of electors voting at the last preceding municipal general election. If voters reject a change in government, the issue cannot be raised for another four years.