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Should Winter Park Have a Mayor?

Our city commission will be considering changes to the City Charter Monday, October 14, 2019 for a referendum vote March 2020. One issue discussed but not recommended by the Charter Review Advisory Committee is removing or limiting the authority of the Mayor to appoint board members. This issue, however, may still be considered by the city commission and commission members have indicated support for changing the authority of the Mayor.

Please contact the Mayor and Commissioners to urge them not to recommend changing the authority of the Mayor under the City Charter.

The following is a letter I wrote to the Charter Review Advisory Committee recommending against changing the authority of Mayor. If such a change is made, we might as well forgo the position of Mayor entirely and require all five commissioner members to appoint a “Chairperson” annually to preside at meetings and sign documents.

Letter to Charter Review Advisory Committee

I write to address a letter distributed recently by Anne Mooney on behalf of former commissioner Phil Anderson regarding removal of current charter language that grants the position of Mayor authority to appoint board members.

The only issue for the committee, the commission, and perhaps the voters is; “Is there justification for changing the authority of the position of Mayor of Winter Park as has existed in the City Charter for at least 30 years?”

The answer to this question has everything to do with wise governance and, contrary to Phil’s position, has nothing to do with contemporary political machinations, or “fairness,” or the “feelings” of those disenchanted with then current leadership, or “re-opening” opportunities, and certainly not with “inclusion.” These are buzz words.

Phil Anderson states, “This process of including nominations from the full Commission had been practiced for a long time.” This is false. The current Charter language has been in place for at least 30 years (maybe decades before that but city staff could not locate a copy of the Charter prior to 1985). Further, contrary to Phil’s assertions, a review of the minutes from 2006 forward (see links below) demonstrates that the Mayor at the beginning of Phil’s term exercised the same prerogative in appointing board members as the Mayors who took office during and subsequent to Phil’s term. Mayors before 2006 (as after) exercised this charter prerogative as they saw fit, some accepting (but not necessarily supporting) board appointments recommended by other commission members, some not.

In addition to being inaccurate about the history, Phil couches his recommendation in a veil of political correctness, presuming the change would result in more qualified appointees “regardless of their political leanings.” This is not true. If other commission members could appoint board members subject to majority approval as the Mayor does now, such appointments would be made with the same degree of political and/or personal relationship to the commissioner making the appointment as may or may not exist under the current Charter language.

I suggest our commission cut to the chase. The Charter is about governance and governance is about the allocation and organization of authority and responsibility.

Granting commission members other than the Mayor the authority under the Charter to appoint board members subject to a majority vote of the commission has consequences that have nothing to do with “fairness,” or “feelings,” or “inclusion.”

Diminishing the authority of Mayor is likely to deter people with proven high-level leadership qualities from seeking that office, to the detriment of city leadership generally.

Granting all commission members the opportunity to appoint board members in the Charter will further aggravate always present political bickering when appointees fail to get three votes.

Granting all commission members the opportunity to appoint board members in the Charter will further politicize the board appointment process, not lessen political aspects of such appointments.

Mayoral leadership is very important in a strong city manager form of government to maintain oversite in the interest of the electors. We need the Mayor to assume ownership of the city on our behalf and the Mayor needs the authority to do so. Making board appointments is the only unique authority other than presiding at meetings that assigns both power and responsibility to the Mayor. Careful judgment argues in favor of retaining such power and such responsibility.

Regards, Peter J. Weldon

Selected commission minutes where the Mayor
appointed board members:

Posted in Policy.

9 Responses

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  1. George Schiele says

    Makes sense. Constantly fidgeting with the governing structure most often just opens new avenues for mischief. The arguments against change are well stated above, the arguments to make a change need far greater explication to be convincing.

  2. Pitt Warner says

    Phil Anderson is playing politics with today’s commissioners hoping to gain some sort of advantage for the NO faction. Trying to manipulate government for short term personal political gain inevitably creates unintended, long term complications to governance. (By personal gain I mean advancing the dogma of the political party masquerading as a voice of the people news source) Also, his wife sent out a scurrilous email during the last election that was the epitome of unethical behavior. I am suspicious about any initiative he, his wife or the political party they are sponsoring in WP, proposes.

  3. Don't Fix What's Not Broke says

    I agree, Pete.

  4. Anne Sallee says

    Coming from another municipality with a Strong City Manager form of government and a rotating Mayor, I offer a different perspective.

    The message above states that “Mayoral leadership is very important in a strong city manager form of government to maintain oversite in the interest of the electors.” I want to believe that the elected Mayor serves a more important role than the control of who serves on City Boards.

    I was a City Commissioner, Vice Mayor and Mayor in Oakland Park, FL. Our board volunteers were appointed by all the Commissioners and Mayor, and it did not cause disruption to the process. It did not weaken the “power” of the Mayor. It made all the community members feel equally represented. This was the long term practice of the Commission per our City Charter. It did not result in chaos and disagreement among the Commissioners.

    I am not deeply entrenched in Winter Park politics and have NO desire to be so. However, when I looked into opportunities to volunteer on a board, I did feel that it was a limited opportunity if only the Mayor could appoint. I would hope that the Commission is a compatible board such that any Commissioner could make a recommendation to the Mayor (without violating the Sunshine law). I have not looked any further into the matter at present.

    My gut reaction is that there is a deeper issue behind this effort. All municipalities have their instigators and their C.A.V.E. people. To a relative newcomer to Winter Park, this communication comes across more as an effort to disrupt than an effort to improve the community of Winter Park.

    • Peter Weldon says

      Anne, thank-you for your perspective on this issue and for you service in Oakland Park. To clarify, the current charter grants the Mayor the authority to appoint to all city boards subject to a majority vote of the 5 member commission. So, each appointee starts with one vote but still must be approved. The Mayor can request and accept board nominations from other commission members at any time.

      This initiative to change the authority of the Mayor has its origin in those opposing the current Mayor, not in well thought out consideration of the impact on our city governance. For that reason alone, changing the charter in this regard is premature. The current practice has been in place for more than 35 years (maybe a lot more) and I am doubtful knee jerk politically motivated changes to our charter will add to the quality of our governance.

  5. Pitt Warner says

    Changing the charter for this issue creates the possibility that a candidate may promise an appointment to person if they can deliver a group of votes. Churches, groups of politically aligned citizens, fraternal or social organizations all have agendas. Let’s not give 1 commissioner the ability to appoint 1 person that may be able to gather votes. It also may diminish the value of serving on the board if everyone knows the latest appointment was a direct appointment. Many other unintended consequences, too. But the BIG QUESTION: Who are the snowflakes that cried to Phil Anderson prompting his letter? Let’s hear from these people. I’ll bet they are single issue ideologues. But let’s hear from them!

  6. Jim Jenkins says

    I don’t think the Mayor should have that much power. The Mayor should executive powers to run the day to day operations of the City, not pack boards in his favor. If you get a corrupt power hungry Mayor things could go bad very fast.

    • Peter Weldon says

      Jim, ours is a strong city manager form of government. No one member of the commission may direct the city manager or city staff. The city manager is responsible for day to day operations and reports to the city commission, which includes the Mayor. The city commission acts as a Board of Directors. All this is in our City Charter. This has worked well for Winter Park. Also, the Mayor appoints people to city boards subject to majority approval of the commission and as such cannot “pack” the boards.

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