Gardner Mayor Dave Drovetta, at a town hall meeting Saturday morning, announced the names of eight local residents seeking to fill the council seat left vacant by Dan Thompson.
Planning Commissioners Andy Copeland and Tory Roberts, former Gardner City Council candidate Steve Shute, former Gardner City Council member Eric Schultz, electric utility board member Brian Broxterman, local attorney Glenn Stockton, and local residents Ann Cort and Mark Baldwin all have applied to serve the remainder of Thompson’s term, which expires in 2013.
Drovetta said he plans to interview all candidates in the next two weeks with the assistance of Council President Todd Winters; he will announce his decision by April 19.
If, for any reason, the council does not approve Drovetta’s decision, according to state law, if 45 days pass without another appointee being brought to the council, Drovetta’s original appointment may be seated.
Drovetta said he has surveyed other governing bodies in the Kansas City metro area and compared their appointment processes. Like Gardner, mayors in cities such as Prairie Village and Lenexa make appointments with the consent of the council; in cities such as Olathe and Merriam, the entire council interviews the candidates. Out of the 11 cities surveyed, only Roeland Park holds a special election to fill council vacancies.
Drovetta, responding to requests of a special election, ruled out the possibility.
“I will not support a special election,” he said. “That is a rare case because of the disruption and added expense involved. I don’t think it is necessary, and there is no evidence that the appointment process is improper in the many years it’s been in place.”
Only within the last five years, since the intermodal issue has been brought up, has the appointment process been seen as one largely motivated by special interests and politics, Drovetta added.
Gardner resident and business owner Chris Morrow, along with Gardner resident Jared Taylor, have submitted proposed rewrites to a city charter ordinance, calling for shorter terms for mayoral appointees and for the chance to seat elected council members as quickly as possible. Morrow, at the meeting, told Drovetta he thinks a council composed mostly of appointees is not in the best interest of voters.
“Given the circumstances, it doesn’t allow the chance to … serve the public well,” he said. “It’s not a question of whether (council appointees are) capable. It’s a question of the will of the people being served. It is incumbent upon the governing body to have elected officials seated as quickly as possible.”
Drovetta nodded in agreement. “OK, that’s fair,” he said.
Drovetta reminded the audience that charter ordinance changes must be approved by a supermajority of the council, and that there is a 60-day time period in which voters can contest the change via petition. If that were to occur, according to the city charter, at least 10 percent of those who voted in the last general election must sign the petition – in the case of the last general election, that would be a little more than 200 signatures required to strike down the proposed changes.
If enough petition signatures were gathered, the issue would be placed on the ballot during the next election.
Drovetta told those in attendance that he acknowledges residents will automatically align the mayoral appointees and their individual decisions to the mayor himself.
“I recognize in this case that every decision that will be made is ‘my fault,’” he said. “I made the appointment, after all.
“But I would challenge everyone to judge Dan and Kristy on their own merits.”
Although he did not vocalize support for Morrow and Taylor’s proposed rewrites, Drovetta agreed that some type of change does need to happen.
“We need to define a process, whatever that process is,” he said.