A petition has been circulating Frederick asking for change in the way the City Government currently runs.
Frederick has been on a Council-Manager form of government since the 1980s. In this form of government, the City Council oversees local policy and budgets and appoints a professional city manager to handle administrative tasks such as grant writing for street or sidewalk projects, or anything else that might need improvement within the city limits.
The petition asks for the government to change to a Mayor-Council form of government. In this form of government, the mayor is elected separately from the council and has strong or weak powers based on the municipal charter.
At one time, Frederick ran on a Mayor-Council Government. Long time Frederick resident and attorney Loyd Benson was the City Attorney during that time.
“During that time we had eight councilman and a Mayor,” Benson said. “We had elected police chief, elected treasurer, elected city clerk, elected street commissioner, and one of the big problems that occurred was that the eight members of the City Council understood what their responsibilities were, some would be in charge of the police department, some would be in charge of the cemetery, some would be in charge of the utility department. We would have councilmen that just didn’t feel like they had the time to devote to those responsibilities and they’d resign. We had a hard time trying to keep councilmen that would be committed to serving on the council during that time. We were one of the few cities that didn’t have a professional form of government.”
Benson said the Statutory City Manager form of government prevailed twice in Frederick in the 1980s.
“I would be opposed to any change in this form of City Government. If people think they want to change City Government, they can run for City Council,” Benson said.
Long time Frederick resident Chancie Davilla says citizens expressed interest in change to Tillman County News’ Jay Sharp after he did an interview with Councilman Jim Ard.
“This petition is to show there are plenty of residents in Frederick who want change,” Davilla said. “There are several changes the people want, but those changes require funding. We are requesting our current City Government to make and put into effect a plan that will bring in business, which will bring people, and also revenue to correct some of the issues we have in Frederick. Our petition says to change from city manager government to Mayor Strong. We know this may not be the most ideal form of Government Frederick needs, however, it is an option if our current city government is unable to initiate the changes needed to make this town thrive.”
Changes, that Councilman Ard says citizens can effect themselves simply by getting involved.
“I would like to caution any one tempted to sign the petition, ‘to not throw out the baby with the bath water.’ I understand people’s need to be heard and for the city to be responsive to their customers needs, but at this time we need a paid manager and Robert is the guy for now,” Ard said. “This is a difficult job with lots of late night calls that I’m glad that I don’t get. We need someone who has negotiated with legislators and boards of directors. Someone who knows the difference between a re-closer switch and upper limit hub.
“Now is not the time to change drivers,” Ard continued. “Now is the time for everybody to start peddling. In the six months I’ve been on the council there has been one citizen show up. One. Again, everybody wants to throw stones but nobody wants to pick up rocks. And if someone wants a seat [on the council], they can have mine. Because frankly, I have other things to do. Nobody runs for office and I have taken my future into my own hands and gotten involved.”
When asked what he thought of the petition, Councilman Kevin Ouellette said, “It’s a democracy. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, no matter how misguided.”
Davilla said if they get 1,000 signatures the petition will then go in front of the City Council.
“We will be taking it to our City Council Government and from there they will address what the people have requested as far as changes, and how to pay that.” Davilla said. “I think there’s a lot of misconception, that we’re trying to get rid of certain people, and that is not our mission. Our mission is just to bring forth change in Frederick. If our current City Government is unable to bring about that change, then yes, our petition says yes, switch to a Mayor-strong Government but that’s merely a suggestion. It’s got everybody in an uproar worrying about it…we need a plan to bring in money to the city and if our current City Government is unable to make a plan and put it in action, to make our town grow and flourish, then maybe we do need to reconsider the form of government we have. That’s what we’re suggesting.”
Davilla also spoke about one of the main concerns being the city’s need for road work. Sales tax is one of the main ways Frederick gets its revenue.
Chamber of Commerce Director Felisha Crawford says no matter what form of government Frederick operates under, shopping local is what really helps local businesses.
“The tax dollars help fix our streets and maintain other important parts of our community,” Crawford said. “Shopping at home keeps the doors to our local businesses open as well as our friends and neighbors employed.”
The Frederick City Council meets at 5:30 p.m. every second and fourth Tuesday of the month and the meetings are open to the public. Citizens are welcome to speak on any topic or issues they may have.
Reach Kathleen Guill at 580-379-0588, ext. 2602.