SIKESTON - Unless the Home Rule Charter is amended sometime in the future, Phil Boyer will be the last mayor selected by his fellow council members.
The city council now has the responsibility of moving the city from the way things have been for many years to the way they will be. Charter commissioners are now only "commentators, not actors," said Harry Sharp, who served as chairman for the Charter Commission. "Our task has been completed and our commission has closed and gone away. We are now interested citizens."
Sharp said according to the Charter, it is the city council's job to establish the ward boundaries. He added that it is important for city residents to watch closely as the council draws the wards - those who don't participate will have no grounds to complain if the wards are not to their liking.
The task of setting wards must be completed by early October, readying the city for the April 2003 election.
"Along the same time frame a new administrative code will be adopted by ordinance and a new personnel code," said Sharp. Sharp said he expects no significant changes and that the new codes will be very similar to the existing ones. "It is more of a housekeeping thing than a change of policy," Sharp explained. "The current codes are written to comply with the rules of a third-class city, and we're no longer a third-class city."
The council will have three years to bring all the other existing city ordinances and resolutions into line with the Charter.
The next milestone for the transition to the new government will be election of the mayor and the first two ward representatives. "We become a seven-person council in 2003," Sharp said.
"Next April, Mike Marshall's at-large term expires and that seat goes away," said Sharp. "Coming into being next April will be an at-large mayor position and two wards."
In addition to the mayor, there will still be four at-large seats on the council at that time with Jerry Pullen and Michael Harris each having one year remaining in their terms.
However ward boundaries are defined, Charter commissioners figured there was no way Pullen and Harris could end up in the same ward as they presently live so far apart. Based on this, the first ward representative elections will be for the other two wards in which Pullen and Harris do not live. "That way we ensure representation from every corner of the city in 2003," said Sharp.
To properly stagger terms since the Charter was passed, Sue Rogers, who received fewer votes in the last election, will only serve a two-year term and will have one year left in 2003. Boyer, having received the most votes of the two, will have two years left on a three-year at-large term.
In April 2004, the two at-large seats currently occupied by Pullen and Harris cease to exist and will be replaced with ward representatives. Roger's at-large seat will also be up for re-election at this time with a full three-year term.
When Boyer's term expires in 2005, that seat will remain an at-large seat. "This way we have one and only one at-large position open for election each year," explained Sharp.
The staggered election cycle will then be in place.
Other parts of the Charter, such as sections dealing with conflicts of interest, financial procedures and voter initiatives, should go into effect after next April, according to the Missouri Municipal League.
Sharp advised it is better to err on the side of caution, however, and begin conducting city business according to the Charter's rules now "so nobody will have a stone to throw at you."
As for amendments to the Charter, Sharp said the city council can place them on the ballot now but citizens will have to wait until after April before they are able to circulate an amendment petition for the first time.