CONCORD -- The City Council has changed the length of the mayoral term of office from one to two years. The two-year term will begin with the next mayoral selection in December. Vice mayors will continue to serve for one year.
Councilwoman Laura Hoffmeister, who has served four terms as mayor, cast the single dissenting vote.
At a special meeting this summer, council members discussed the concept changing the length of the mayoral term, and Mayor Dan Helix announced that he would not run for mayor again. The council unanimously directed the city staff to study the idea and submit proposals.
On Oct. 1, City Clerk Mary Rae Lehman presented three proposals with differing term length combinations of one and two years for the mayor and vice mayor.
Council members generally held the same views expressed in July. Helix favored a two-year term.
"I was mayor from 1972-1974," Helix recalled. "I was much more effective because I had established relationships ... There are benefits that flow to the city and you are a better mayor."
Councilman Edi Birsan, who made the motion for a two-year term, noted the council changed the city's 60- to 70-year history of a two-year mayoral term for political reasons in 1993. He supported a return to tradition.
The term length was changed during the time when then-Councilman Mark DeSaulnier was a Republican. The four other council members at the time were Democrats, who wanted to make sure he only served as mayor for a short time, according to Helix.
Councilman Ron Leone, who seconded the motion, said, "The scale is weighted in favor of having a longer term."
Leone cited consistency, the possibility for follow-through on issues, the 'lame-duck' element, the practice of longer terms in other cities and mayoral public recognition as reasons for his decision.
"There is a learning curve, especially for the first term," he added.
Vice Mayor Tim Grayson supported the motion for two years and focused on council unity.
"You are mayor and you sit in that seat because of four of your colleagues. The incentive ought to be what is best for Concord."
Hoffmeister preferred the one-year mayor and vice mayor term proposal, but said she could see the advantages of the two-year process, particularly because of the demise of the Redevelopment Agency, which had allowed council members to have more leadership experiences.
There were questions about what happens to a two-year mayor in an election year when he or she is not re-elected, and when the new two-year term policy would start.
If a two-year mayor loses an election, the mayor would not serve for two years. "That is what we did for 60 to 70 years," Helix pointed out.
Birsan said there has been a tradition of selecting the council member who has been on the council the longest, without being mayor, but that is not a rule or written policy.
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