Elkhart City Council's first meeting of the year was Monday, Jan. 13, but they were unable to choose presiding officers for 2014 because of differences of opinion that repeatedly shaped into a 4-4 tie.
The deadlock came as a result of one missing council member, Republican Mary Olson.
After two nominations each for president and vice president were unsuccessful, council voted to make Republican Brian Thomas a temporary president to oversee the rest of the meeting. Democrat Brent Curry made the nomination, which was approved unanimously.
Council meets Feb. 3 and will try again.
Council was originally scheduled to meet Jan. 6, but the 2013 council president, Ron Troyer canceled the meeting because of anticipated numerous absences. Realistically, though, the meeting would likely have been canceled as a result of the snowstorm.
In 2013, council worked out a deal where Troyer would serve as council president and fellow Democrat Dave Osborne as vice president. Republicans found that to be suitable because Troyer sometimes sides with Republicans.
Councilman David Henke said he thought council leadership would remain the same as
2013, but after Monday's struggles, that outlook could change.
If all nine members attend the Feb. 3 meeting, it would give Republicans a chance to keep things the way they were in 2013 or seek more changes. It now looks as if it will be a choice between Troyer, Osborne and Thomas for the top two positions.
City clerk Sue Beadle momentarily served as the interim council president Monday and directed the first few moments of the meeting as council attempted to elect officers.
Beadle was in a similar role in 2008 after the council president from the previous year was defeated in the prior election. Beadle said she was asked by city attorney Vlado Vranjes to step in Monday.
Beadle, who has served as clerk for the city since 1988, said council's failure to elect officers by the end of January is the first she can recall.
As a result, the city doesn't have a council president to sign claims on a handful of council-related bills including legal advertising.
What does the city do in those circumstances? "We're trying to figure that out right now," Beadle said Wednesday,adding that the issue is not overly pressing.
Another unintended consequence appears to be a delay in reviewing an additional appropriation needed to cover the cost of the three new SoMa positions at the Lerner Theatre. The request by the administration was assigned to the council's finance committee for consideration, but a meeting date for the committee won't be set until after a council president is chosen.
Mary Jo Weyrick, the council's administrative assistant, said the city clerk's role at the beginning of the year will become a new tradition going forward. The change comes at the advice of Vranjes. Turns out other nearby cities, such as South Bend and Mishawaka do it that way, too, Weyrick said.
Typically, the president from the previous year (if still in office), has run the show for the opening minutes of the first meeting of the year.