Antioch’s City Council approved on Tuesday to place a measure on the June 5 ballot that would eliminate the elected mayor in favor of a rotation among City Council members, similar to the processes in place in Oakley, Concord and Walnut Creek.
Former City Councilwoman Martha Parsons proposed the rotation at an earlier meeting, claiming that such an arrangement could help cultivate new perspectives. She also noted that it would keep the focus on Antioch’s issues instead of politics.
“It gives us the opportunity for new vision, new direction in case someone becomes complacent or stagnant,” City Councilman Wade Harper said. “We all have an equal vote on the City Council, but it gives us the seat at the helm, so to speak, for a year, so we all can make some positive change.”
A majority vote will be needed for the measure to pass.
While the mayor is one of five equal voices on the City Council, the top seat requires a few extra responsibilities. The mayor consults with the city manager during agenda preparation, sits on the Delta Diablo Sanitation District board and represents the city at the countywide Mayor’s Conference.
The mayor receives the same $450 salary as the City Council members, but gets a $100 per month higher cap for travel expenses, and a $50 per month higher cap for communications expenses.
The mayoral position, currently held by Jim Davis whose term ends this year, has been an elected post since 1972, and a four-year seat since 1994. If the June measure fails, Davis’ mayoral seat will be contested on November ballot. Former Mayor Don Freitas has announced that he will run to regain his title, and rumors are circulating that current City Councilman Gary Agopian will throw his hat into the ring as well.
If the June measure passes, Davis’ seat will become part of the November race for City Council.
“I’m very supportive of this,” Davis said. “As the current mayor, I think this is the right direction to go. I would like to see more people have the opportunity to serve as mayor up here.”
Under the terms of the proposal, the five council members would vote to choose a new mayor annually, a selection process similar to that of the Discovery Bay Community Services District. Oakley has also instituted a rotation, ensuring that each City Council member gets one year at the helm.
Oakley City Councilwoman Pat Anderson believes the process has worked wonders for her city. Anderson was Oakley’s original mayor in 1999 and 2000, and has also held the title in 2005 and 2010.
“I think it’s just the best way because it takes all five members to make decisions,” Anderson said. “There are years where there’s a lot of things going on. If you have a full-time job and you’re doing this too, it can be incredibly exhausting.”
As this is the second measure the city plans to place on the June ballot, the process will come fairly cheap for Antioch. Leaders also voted Tuesday to let voters decide if the city clerk and city treasurer should be appointed, instead of elected, positions.
According to City Attorney Lynn Tracy Nerland, putting only one measure on the June ballot costs the city $105,000. The second measure, regarding the elected mayor, costs only an extra $10,000.