GOSHEN — The current system of appointing a person to serve in the mayor’s absence remains in place after the Goshen City Council voted down an ordinance that would establish a deputy mayor position Tuesday, Aug. 6.
The ordinance, first introduced at the July 16 meeting of the council, would have allowed a mayor to appoint a deputy mayor who would serve in their absence and not have to publicly disclose their absence at a meeting of the Board of Public Works, which is the city’s current procedure.
Mayor Allan Kauffman said he would prefer to establish the deputy position so that he would not have to publicly disclose when he was away, in the interest of the safety of his family and property.
The city’s current procedure, set forth by state statute, also requires that the mayor appoint a city council member.
If passed, the ordinance discussed Tuesday night would have broadened the pool of candidates for the deputy mayor position to include any city employee.
Kauffman said he would have liked the pool to be expanded further to include any citizen of the city.
“I can think of a number of business people that I’d trust to make good decisions in my absence,” he explained.
Council president Jim McKee’s suggestion that council members be excluded from consideration for the potential deputy position gained traction with the other Republican members of the council.
McKee and councilman Ed Ahlersmeyer said they were concerned that the selection of the deputy mayor would become too politicized, and limiting the potential candidates to city employees would still offer plenty of viable possibilities to hold the position.
McKee said he believed city employees would likely be better candidates for the position anyway, given that they are involved daily with the business of the city.
Former councilman Tom Stump agreed with McKee and Ahlersmeyer on the potential political element, saying the appointee could garner a significant advantage leading into the next mayoral election through their experience in the position.
Another concern of some council members was the impact the position would have on their ability to still attend to the needs of their constituents.
“If (Mayor Kauffman is) out of office for any length of time ... it would take away from our ability to take calls from our constituents and everything,” councilman Brett Weddell said.
“We would no longer be filling the position that we were elected for if we had to the take the responsibility of deputy mayor for any length of time.”
Fred Buttell, another resident, disagreed with the exclusion of council members.
“We elected the city council to govern,” he said. “I do not feel that city employees are qualified for this because they have not had to reach these kinds of decisions.”
Buttell even suggested the deputy mayor come from a member of the council from the opposing party, no matter who would be the current mayor.
“It’d give us all in the city a breath of fresh air for a while,” he explained.
In the end, with no agreement on who should be included for consideration of the position, the opposition to the proposed policy was enough to get the ordinance voted down entirely.
Stump returned to speak during privilege of the floor, however, to state his belief having a deputy mayor could be a good idea and encouraged the council to continue working toward coming up with a policy that would be palatable to all members.