Council approves charter change

Published 10:01 am Wednesday, July 15, 2015

After more than 50 years of minimal change, the Dowagiac City Charter may see some major changes over the next few years.

The Dowagiac City Council approved the language for an amendment to the 1964 document during their meeting Monday evening at city hall.

If approved by voters at the polls in November, the amendment would change the position of the city clerk from an elected office to an appointed one, beginning with the next vacancy of the office.

The language for the amendment is as follows:

:The Charter states that the City Clerk is elected to a 4 year term. The proposed amendment requires the City Manager, with Council approval, to appoint the Clerk and set compensation as with other Administrative Officers.

“Shall Sections 4.1, 4.3, 5.11-5.29 and 7.10-7.24 of the Charter be amended, to provide appointment of the City Clerk, effective at the end of the Clerk’s term of office or upon a vacancy in office, whichever occurs first?”

The council, along with the city’s local officer compensation committee, has considered making changes to the city clerk’s position ever since the retirement of former clerk James Snow in February, said City Manager Kevin Anderson.

“It was discovered that very few cities the size of Dowagiac have elected clerks,” Anderson said. “Almost all of them have appointed clerks, with the idea of combining additional administrative responsibilities beside those statutory responsibilities that are out there.”

With advances in technology streamlining the clerk’s elected responsibilities of recordkeeping and election processing, the change to an appointed position would allow the clerk to have expanded tasks beyond what’s laid out in the charter, Anderson said in a memo to council.

If the amendment is approved by voters, it would not take affect until the end of the elected clerk’s four-year term in 2019, provided that someone runs for the position in November, when Jane Wilson, the current clerk’s term expires.

With council’s approval, the amendment will be sent to the Michigan Attorney General and Governor’s offices for approval for placement on the Nov. 3 ballot. From there, it be will up to city voters to decide to approve the amendment or not.