Bastrop News

Limiting a Mayor’s Influence

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By Terry Hagerty – Contributing  Writer

Future mayors of Bastrop won’t be serving – at least for a while – in either of the top two spots of a local economic development board, after action taken by the City Council. By a vote of 2-1 at their regular meeting Tuesday night, the Council approved a measure that would keep a Bastrop mayor from serving as either chairperson or vice chair of the seven-member Bastrop Economic Development Corporation’s Board of Directors.

The two Council members voting for the measure – and the BEDC Board of Directors’ member who originally introduced the measure –  concurred that “separation” between the two governing bodies has to be maintained to some degree, because there already exists significant Council input on the Board: Three Council members already sit on the BEDC and vote (including the Mayor); the Council has final approval of the BEDC’s annual budget; and the Mayor makes appointments when vacancies occur on the Board (subject to Council approval).

The measure to limit the Mayor’s service options with the BEDC had been introduced by Board of Directors’ member Pat Crawford on May 18 as an amendment to the group’s bylaws, and was then recommended by a Board vote.  At that time Crawford said she thought it prudent to limit the potential sway of any City Council members serving on the Board. The three City Council members who serve on the Board are Mayor Ken Kesselus, Gary Schiff (also recently elected to the Council), and Willie Delarosa. There are seven total members on the Board. On Thursday (May 28) Crawford added in a phone conversation that it was important to maintain the BEDC functioning as “a separate entity, but with a partnership with the City Council,” and that the public see that transparency.

With Council member Delarosa absent from the meeting, and Council member Gary Schiff saying he would abstain from the vote (because he is a BEDC Board member) , that left just three of four Council members present to vote: Kelly Gilleland and Kay Garcia McAnally – who voted for limiting the mayor’s role on the Board – and Dock Jackson, who voted against it.  (The Mayor’s position can vote to break a Council tie.). The Mayor already makes appointments when any BEDC Board of Directors’ seats become vacant. The Council has final approval (by vote) on his recommended appointments.

Jackson described the Council discussions right before the vote as: “Everyone is making good points,” but he added he thought that “limiting in perpetuity” a future mayor’s ability to serve as either chair or vice chair of the Board might not necessarily be a good idea – sort of tying the council hand’s during a potential time when a Mayor would make a strong candidate for being chair of the Board.

The vote to limit mayors’ positions on the BEDC Board came just moments after former Mayor Terry Orr spoke at the podium, saying he thought the measure “an ill-founded idea.”  Orr added there could a be a time when it would be “a very good idea” for a mayor to serve as chair of the BEDC board. Mayor Ken Kesselus, who said he had invited Orr to speak, echoed Orr’s points.  Kesselus, who said he had no desire to serve as either chair or vice chair of the board, termed the proposal “a serious mistake.” He added there “might be a time where the mayor was best” for the top Board position. In the future, a Bastrop City Council could decide to revisit the amendment to the BEDC bylaws passed by the Council on Tuesday night, and possibly reinstate the previous status that left open for the Mayor the potential to serve as chair of the BEDC Board.

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