Published 10:38 am Thursday, July 16, 2015
On Monday, the member of the Dowagiac City Council approved the language for a ballot proposal that, if approved by voters, would make the first major change to the language of the city charter.
The charter amendment calls for the position of city clerk to go from an elected office to one appointed by the city manager and approved by city council. The change would allow the clerk to take on additional responsibilities beyond his or her statutory duties of overseeing local elections and maintaining city records, officials say.
According to City Manager Kevin Anderson, many communities the size of Dowagiac or larger have made the transition from elected to appointed clerks.
Over the last several years, Anderson, Dowagiac Mayor Don Lyons and other city officials have talked about the idea of “doing more with less,” in reference to increasing the efficiency of the local government without taking on additional staff. Allowing the clerk’s office to take on an additional workload would certainly fall in line with that philosophy.
While it would always be nice to see city hall (or any local organization or company, for that matter) take on additional employees, the unfortunate financial reality is that Dowagiac, like many other small cities, has to maximize their existing workforce. Making sensible changes to positions like the city clerk is one way of accomplishing that.
Of course, the opinion that ultimately matters in this situation is that of Dowagiac voters, who will make the final decision in November when the amendment is expected to go on the ballot.
Regardless of the result, though, the fact that city officials are taking stock of the city charter is something that should be applauded.
Passed by city residents in 1964, the charter has remained largely unchanged over the years, despite the fact that Dowagiac has undergone some radical changes throughout the past half-century. The needs of its citizens have changed since then, and the governing document should be changed to reflect those new priorities, if necessary.
We encourage voters to look into the issue this fall, and to make the decision they feel is best for the direction of the community and its government.
Opinions expressed are those of the editorial board consisting of Publisher Michael Caldwell and editors Ambrosia Neldon, Craig Haupert, Ted Yoakum and Scott Novak.