City moves forward without mayor

By Kelly Black, Observer correspondent February 27, 2013 11:02 am

by KELLY BLACK / Observer correspondent 

City of Cove has been unable to find replacement for former mayor, James Lundy, who resigned at end of 2012

COVE — Longtime residents cannot recall a time when Cove did not have a mayor — until now.

Since former Mayor James Lundy’s departure at the end of 2012, the City of Cove has been operating without a mayor by adopting a resolution that clarifies authority for Cove City Council President Lyndon Rose to sign city documents, including the nearly $1.6 million USDA wastewater loan. 

“The resolution makes it clearer for the loan company,” said City Recorder Donna Lewis. 

Although the charter for the city specifies that the council president will act as mayor if the mayor is unable to perform functions of the office, the USDA suggested a specific resolution to clarify who has authority to sign documents, including loans, while the city operates without a mayor. The council passed the resolution on Jan. 8, and also established a council vice-president position that has authority in the absence of the council president.

“I’m still trying to find someone to be mayor,” Rose said. 

Rose and the council have talked to numerous people about the open position. Last fall before the election, the city advertised the position. No candidate filed to run and the highest write-in declined the position.

“I don’t understand it,” Rose said. “I’m on the council because I want to serve my community and give something back.”

Some residents wonder, but asked not to be named, if citizens are hesitant to serve because of the trauma they have seen — such as recalls — in other nearby city governments.

Cove operates with what is known as a weak mayor system, which gives greater involvement to the councilors and limits the voting power of the mayor to casting the deciding vote in the case of a tie.

“I really like small towns like Cove to have a weak mayor,” said former Cove Mayor Richard Thew, who served as mayor for 24 years starting in the early 1980s.  “It allows the decisions to be spread out over a combined experience.”

Thew said that in some cities with a strong mayor system, like Portland, all you read about is the mayor.

“I think a strong mayor system in a small town can lead to some kinds of abuse and councilors let the mayor do it all,” said Thew.

In Cove, the primary responsibilities of the mayor are to run city council meetings, represent the city at events or meetings, sign city documents and oversee other administrative tasks.

“Running the meetings takes some skill and to me, that is the most important part of the job,” Thew said.

Rose hopes to find someone who is a good listener with a calm demeanor who can facilitate interaction between the citizens and the councilors during the meetings.

According to Thew, a mayor should also be mindful that councilors in small towns are not professional politicians and some will need guidance as they develop their skill level in meetings.

“A mayor should make sure everyone is learning how we operate and gently lead them away from telling war stories that would get us off track,” he said.