The voters have spoken and Sikeston has become the 33rd city in Missouri to adopt a charter form of government. I was most certainly not surprised by the election results but I was somewhat impressed with the large margin of support given the charter. I would, and did, guess that a much closer vote would have approved the charter.
So what happens now? Well the new city council will have up to a year to draw four separate wards for Sikeston. That task could either be extremely simple or massively complex. It will take some time to define the population boundaries and then to draw four wards that fairly reflect the make-up of the community and the needs of the areas represented.
In a year, Sikeston voters will elect new council from each ward along with three at-large seats, one of those being the new mayor which will be selected by a popular vote and not from among the council as it has been for four decades. This will be most interesting because some areas of the community have never had representation though the argument could easily be made that those areas have benefited greatly from the at-large council seats. The north end of Sikeston, for example, has been largely in control of the council seats for as long as our form of government has been around. But despite this imbalance on the north end, more street funds have been spent on the west end than on the north end. It will be interesting to follow the ward system and watch how it works. And it will.
I have already heard rumors and discussions about a host of amendments to the charter that may surface. These words may be rumor only but the charter form of government does permit initiative petition and that process is not impossible.
Having those amendments approved in a popular election may be less easy however.
Many respected voices are saying that Sikeston is now at a most critical junction in our community's history. We can look around and see ample good and, unfortunately, more than our share of bad. But the council's actions in the coming year may be more important than ever. I do not envy their task nor do I back away from offering assistance and advice along with criticism and comment. That should be the role of every citizen as our community changes and adapts to these new times and new structures.
I continue to have reservations about the popular election of the mayor for a three year term. I fear that citizens may have a perception that the mayor has more power than will actually be the case. But then again, if a strong candidate dedicates the time and effort required, then all should work out well in the end. The other side of that coin of course is that an ineffective mayor with a hidden agenda could pose a problem for a long period of time. That makes the election and that post so very critical.
So let's view this as a new day in our community's history. Let's embrace the new form of government, let's work with our elected officials and let's turn the corner on a new approach with a common goal. Less than 20 per cent of the registered voters turned out this week. We'll need greater participation to make this change a success. I remain confident that the participation will surface.