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Letter: Our Form of Government: Ideas for Change

The Community Agreement (“Agreement”) was signed on May 15, 1919. It has been amended several times to conform to village law, as well as to increase the number of trustees from five to eight. The trustees and the mayor are elected to serve two-year terms.

Office of Mayor: The mayor is the chief executive officer of the village. The mayor appoints the village administrator, village officers and counsel, among others. The mayor conducts the labor negotiations. The mayor establishes policy and is responsible for the governance of the village.

Two years is too short a time for a mayor to govern. The first year he/she is learning the job and the second year he/she is ending the term. I recommend that the office of mayor be a four-year term as the office of governor, county executive and mayors of other villages.

The Agreement provides that the mayor be nominated for one term by rotation of the four sections of the village. Usually it is the senior trustee from the section. Mayor Rothschild was an exception as Trustee Mauk declined to become mayor.

Since the mayor is the only office that represents the entire village, why not make the selection process conform to that representation? I recommend that there be an eight-person nominating committee, two representatives from each section which would select the most qualified candidate from the entire village.

The board of trustees (“Board”) would increase from eight to nine, consisting of eight trustees and the mayor. Each would have one vote. This would eliminate tie votes and the unfairness of two votes for the mayor to break the tie.

Governance: Board Meetings: The board generally meets the first and third Thursdays of each month to act on the public agenda. Policy discussions are conducted in executive session either one-hour before or after the meeting. I served as a trustee for four years. It was clear to me that such meetings provided insufficient time to discuss and determine the issues. There was usually a rush to judgment either because the public was waiting for the board or the trustees were in a hurry to go home. I recommend that there be one meeting a month to act on the public agenda and another meeting to discuss and determine the policy issues. Moreover, as a trustee, I was often confronted with a legislative proposal that I didn’t see until I arrived at the board meeting. The residents deserve a better democratic process.

Village Administrator: The village administrator is appointed by the mayor for a two-year term. He is the chief operating officer of the village. He is responsible for the day-to-day management of the village. During the four years I served as trustee, he rarely made recommendations on actions to be taken by the board. He primarily served as the executive secretary to the board. With his central role in the administration of our village, he is in the best position to make recommendations on actions to be taken by the board. I recommend that the village administrator be given a three-year contract by the board, with benchmarks and an annual performance review. This would change the role of the administrator by making him responsible to the entire board and requiring him to make recommendations on all matters before the board for decision.  

Thomas M Lamberti

Garden City