The municipal election is coming up quickly and it’s getting time to take a look at all of the candidates and figure out who will get my vote. This year the mayor and three city council seats are up. There are also other local offices that we’ll be voting on including school boards and park commissioners. I’ll be taking a look at those separately. I’m much more familiar with the city council (and to a lesser extent the park district) than the others.
As of today, before I have listened to any of the debates or interviews (though I have read each candidate’s thoughts about a variety of issues elsewhere), I am leaning heavily towards certain candidates but I’m going to wait to make my final decision until I’ve learned more, which I think is wise. Speaking of that, this would probably be a good time to present an abbreviated version of Decatur Government 101 because a lot of people seem to be confused about what our mayor and city council does.
Our Mayor Is Just One Vote…plus some extra stuff
Our mayor is just one vote on the council. He or she doesn’t run the city on a daily basis. They usually have other full-time job and they aren’t paid much to be mayor. The last I heard it was $8,000 a year, so they’re hardly cashing in on taxpayer expense. Our mayor and council members do not run as Democrats or Republicans, which is refreshing, considering how politically divided the country is along partisan lines. It makes our form of government much less politically toxic.
Our city manager is in charge of the day-to-day operations of the city and he or she (I don’t think we’ve had a she yet), is hired by the city council. The council has the authority to decide to retain or dismiss the city manager. The most important role the mayor plays is probably in the council chamber where he or she oversees the meetings and basically makes sure it doesn’t devolve into mayhem and disorder. Believe me, it’s come close over the years! I recall people getting irate when once-a-week garbage pickup was implemented. The National Guard almost had to be called in. Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating but not by much!
Most of all the mayor sets the tone for the council and the city as a whole and that tone can be cooperative or very contentious and unproductive.
The City Council Does Not Have Control Over Our Parks
Another big misconception many residents have in Decatur is that the city runs the park district and is responsible for what is happening in Nelson Park or at the lakefront or any other park property. Decatur has a separate park district that does not fall under Decatur city management. They have their own elected commissioners. However, the city and the park district often tries to form a singular vision for large projects. For instance, the park district owns Nelson Park but the city owns the lake and the docks. So, development along the lakefront will require cooperation between the two. For example, not too long ago the city helped chip in funds to renovate the beach house. So the city and park district can work together but they are separate governing entities.
I thought it was important to explain these things because I read a lot of social media comments that reflect people’s misunderstanding of our form of government and who is responsible for what. Now back to the council race…
Who’s Running For Decatur City Council?
For the three seats up for election on the city council we have six candidates. The only incumbent running is Pat McDaniel. The others vying for a seat are Chris Riley, Chuck Kuhle, David Horn, Andrew Apel, and Marty Watkins. Riley is currently serving as a commissioner for the Decatur Park District. Kuhle has served on the Macon County Board in the past and is currently the tennis director for the Decatur Athletic Club. This is the second time Horn has run for city council. He is a biology professor at Millikin Univeristy. Marty Watkins is an ordained minister and Apel is a local businessman.
At this point I’m fairly certain of two of my votes for the city council but I’m still undecided on that third seat. I encourage anyone interested in the election to learn about the candidates. The Herald & Review and local radio talk shows are good places to learn more about the candidates in their own words. That’s what I’ll be doing.
In the meantime, here are links to the each candidate’s Facebook page and/or website that has either: