GOSHEN — The position of deputy mayor once again sparked spirited discussion among both the Goshen city council, Mayor Allan Kauffman and the public at the council meeting on Tuesday night, Sept. 3.
After a failed attempt at establishing the position last month, Jim McKee, the council president, brought the topic back for September’s first meeting, successfully passing the ordinance by a 5-2 vote.
The difference between the original, failed ordinance and the one brought before the council Tuesday was the exclusion of members from consideration for the position, rather than leaving the pool open to any city employee, as the original ordinance had been written.
Early in the discussion, councilman Jeremy Stutsman suggested an amendment to the ordinance that would at least include the council president in the pool of potential considerations, along with all other city employees, while still excluding the rest of the council.
Stutsman said he believed all members of the council should be available for consideration but he’d be willing to limit the additions to only the council president.
“I know it’s not going to pass with all council members being able to be appointed,” he said. “The mayor, if he decides to, could pick the council president, because I think it should be his choice if he wants another elected official to fill his spot.”
Councilman Ed Ahlersmeyer spoke in favor of the amendment, noting it fit his wishes to establish a sense of hierarchy, or chain of command, in the mayor’s absence.
McKee also voiced his support for the amendment, adding that the mayor would not necessarily have to select the council president if that would make him uncomfortable, but would still broaden the pool to include one elected representative with the other candidates.
Councilman Everett Thomas didn’t quite see eye-to-eye with others’ assessments, however, believing that removing council members from consideration or allowing only the president to be considered was, in itself, a political move.
“The elephant in the room is that you (McKee) don’t want (Kauffman) to appoint (Stutsman) as deputy mayor,” he said, to which McKee simply responded, “Yes.”
“So this motion means the mayor is limited to one of seven people,” Thomas continued. “I’m not going to vote for this. That’s junior high.”
Stutsman questioned McKee’s response to Thomas’ assertion about the reasoning behind excluding members of the council.
“Last meeting, you (McKee) said that having this position is political,” Stutsman said. “So it sounds like not having this position is also being political.”
The amendment passed 5-2, with only Thomas and Brett Weddell voting against the amendment.
After the vote on that amendment, Kauffman asked if any council member would be willing to propose a second amendment that would increase the number of council members for consideration to include members who had at least four years experience on the council.
Thomas made the motion, but after further discussion the second amendment failed by a 4-3 vote along party lines.
Several members of the council and citizens argued that experience did not necessarily equate to knowledge, understanding or ability to lead the city.
“Seniority on the council means nothing,” resident Glenn Null said.
Weddell, who voted against both amendments, simply said he would not want any council member to be added to the pool of candidates under any of the circumstances presented at the meeting.
Thomas, out of curiosity, then asked Kauffman if he would consider using his veto power against the ordinance if it passed, to which Kauffman said he did not have a firm answer and would likely think it over.
When the council eventually got to voting on the deputy mayor position itself, as laid out with the amendment adding the council president into the pool of candidates, it passed the ordinance by another 5-2 vote, with Thomas and Weddell once again voting against the measure.
Even after the lengthy discussion, Thomas mentioned his satisfaction with the council’s ability to work through difficult topics in a civilized manner and without the debate devolving into “name-calling.”