Mayoral candidate raises the question of a position overhaul

By: Mariel Carbone | WCTV Eyewitness News
November 16, 2017

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) —The latest candidate for Tallahassee mayor is calling for an overhaul of the position.

“I would like to see a reverse of the mayor’s position and go back to the rotating mayor,” said Joe West, a Tallahassee veteran who filed to run for office Wednesday. “It’s not done well for us for the three mayors that we’ve had.”

For most of its lifetime, the City of Tallahassee had a rotating mayor, with the city commission voting in one of its own to the position each year.

"When a new mayor would come in they would come in with new ideas and they'd want to accomplish something, but they could only work on it for one year. So because of that, they didn't have very audacious goals,” said City Commissioner Scott Maddox, who has served as a commissioner, elected mayor and rotating mayor.

But, the format changed in 1996 following a citizens referendum that passed by vote for a “leadership mayor.” That vote was supported by then Mayor Maddox. Following the vote, the charter was officially changed.

Maddox was formally elected to the position in 1997. Since then, the City of Tallahassee has had two other elected mayors: John Marks and Andrew Gillum.

But public accusations of corruption and unethical behavior by local elected officials has some pushing for a rewind.

"It seems like maybe there's a little too much power in that office,” said West.

Currently, the Mayor’s Office has a budget of about $500,000 and employs several staff members from the Mayor himself, to a chief of staff, community relations coordinator and fellows.

"There's been a creep as far as expense goes, as far as personal goes, as far as their duties go. At the same time, they have one vote, it's a part time ceremonial position,” said Penny Herman, a former commissioner and mayor who served prior to the change.

She said there is no reason to have an elected mayor.

"Having somebody there for four years, having them to be able to have a bigger budget and have more people and maybe have a political platform. As far as serving the community, that's not happened,” she said.

Maddox noted that having a rotating form of mayor is often for cities that are much smaller in size. He believes having an elected mayor is beneficial to accomplishing the city's goals.

"It does give you continuity, it gives someone the ability to set an agenda, and it's very helpful in dealing with other governments," said Maddox.

Although Tallahassee does have an elected mayor, the day to day operations are run by the City Manager. The position of mayor does not have veto power and derives its power from what the city commission allocates it.

In order for the position to return to a rotating position it would require a majority vote by the residents and a change to the city charter.

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