Missouri City Council votes down rotating Mayor Pro Tem

By Betsy Dolan 

A set of guidelines allowing the Missouri City Council to rotate members into the Mayor Pro Tem position was voted down July 7.

Mayor Allen Owen, Councilmembers Floyd Emery and Jerry Wyatt voted for the plan. Councilmembers Yolanda Ford and Robin Elackatt, the current Mayor Pro Tem, voted against. Councilmembers Chris Preston and Don Smith “stepped away from the table”, declining to cast a vote on the matter.

The city charter calls for the City Council to elect a Mayor Pro Tem to serve in the mayor’s absence. The new guidelines would have worked in tandem with the stipulations in the charter to allow councilmembers, who have not previously been Mayor Pro Tem, a chance to serve in that capacity.

City Attorney Caroline Kelley said the initial consideration would be for members who have not yet served as Mayor Pro Tem, followed by consecutive length of service on the City Council followed by years of total service. The city charter does require any councilmember to have at least one year of service prior to being considered for Mayor Pro Tem.

Ford asked Kelley if the City was circumventing the charter by approving the guidelines.

“This one is unique because the Mayor Pro Tem serves at the pleasure of council so this is a policy that, in any given election period, the sitting council can dispense with and elect not to follow”, Kelley said. “These are guidelines that council may consider if they so desire or may ignore if they so desire”.

Kelley then said the Mayor Pro Tem would serve a year unless a majority vote by the council decided to pick someone else. Elackatt wanted verification that the current sitting council could change the guidelines and Kelley said they could with a majority vote.

Mayor Owen told the council that during the next charter review in 2016, there will be an option to turn the guidelines into a charter amendment.

“This goes back five years ago when I brought this up. We wanted to do it but didn’t have a policy in place. Now at least we have something out there that we can refer back to and say ‘this council did adopt a policy'”, Owen said.

Henderson Hunter, a member of the Missouri City Parks board and a previous city council candidate, spoke in favor of the policy.

“I realize you are trying to be proactive to make sure that others have an opportunity to serve and bring a fresh perspective and ideas so that more members can get exposure at the top which is a good thing for all of our citizens in Missouri City”, Henderson said. “By rotating the seat, it could give that person a year or two of experience”.

Henderson also asked the council to take up the issue of term limits and to work on getting more citizens on the committee that reviews the city charter.

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