Langley to talk about future of mayor's position

Langley may find out if residents want the mayor — the position, not the person — to be a fixture in the city's future next week.

The League of Women Voters of Whidbey Island is hosting a "community conversation" about the form of city government from 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 23 in Fellowship Hall at Langley United Methodist Church.

The meeting will include a panel of experts who will give presentations on the mayor-council and council-city manager forms of government. Panelists include Pat Mason, senior legal consultant for the Municipal Research and Services Center, and Ken Carter, city manager for the city of Carnation.

Barbara Seitle, a league member, said that talk of Langley's form of government has been "sort of brewing" in the community, and noted the city's comprehensive plan says a discussion of the council-city manager form of government was merited.

"I think the level of interest is moderate, but it's definitely there," Seitle said.

Talk of the mayor's role in Langley was also heightened late last year, during the controversy over vacation pay for the mayor, and several residents then asked city officials to explore the idea of a council-manager form of government.

Under the council-manager form of government, cities do not have a mayor elected by the public. Instead, the council chooses a mayor from the ranks of council members. The city's policies are then implemented by a paid city manager, rather than an elected mayor.

Seitle said the league does not have a position on the proper model of government for Langley, but noted that the mayor's position will be on the ballot in November.

It makes sense to talk about the topic now, she said.

"It just seemed like as good as time as any to do it," Seitle said.

"We're not advocating change at all. We are just exploring all of the options," she said.

"One of the things that is driving it is the fact that there will be an election coming up ... and if people wanted to have a change, it would have to go on the ballot or the council would have to put it on the ballot, and then it might make a difference in who would decide to run for mayor.

"I'm not suggesting it should, by any means. I think it should all be out in the open before we have an election," Seitle said.

Most cities in Washington operate under the mayor-council form of government, the model now used in Langley.

According to Municipal Research and Services Center of Washington, a Seattle-based nonprofit that provides consultant services to cities and counties, 226 of Washington's 281 cities and towns — or roughly 80 percent — have a mayor-council form of government. A total of 54 cities and towns, or 19 percent, use the council-manager form.

Larger cities, those with populations between 5,000 to 100,000, are more likely to use the council-manager model. According to Municipal Research, 43 of the 54 cities with council-manager setups fall within that population range.

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