Village Council pondering change in way its leader is elected

Marie Havenga • Nov 1, 2017 at 12:00 PM

Spring Lake Village Council is considering changing the way that the village president is elected, which would require amending the Village Charter.

The charter currently requires that village voters elect a village president for a two-year term.

Council has discussed the possibility of instead having seven council members elected, and then having council select the most qualified person among them to serve as president.

“The office is primarily one that is ceremonial,” Village Manager Chris Burns said. “The president must be qualified to run the meeting, but votes last, and does not have veto power. He or she cuts ribbons, kisses babies and shakes hands.”

The president is paid $1,200 per year for those “extra” duties, according to Burns, compared to $800 for council members.

“The president has no more power than the other six, so why have them elected separately?” Burns asked. “It makes sense to have a person who is the most knowledgeable in parliamentary procedure running the meetings. Every community I have worked in prior to Spring Lake elects their mayor/president from amongst themselves at the organizational meeting following the election.”

If the person council selects doesn't work out, they can choose a new leader at any future meeting.

Councilwoman Megan Doss said she'd like to see the way the president is elected changed. Currently, any resident who wants to run for village president just needs to file for it, she said, and that person doesn't need any prior council or village board experience.

“If a resident has a desire to serve, they should run for council,” Doss said. “After working for a few years and establishing relationships with other council members, staff and residents, a council member can indicate to council members that they would like to serve as president, or a council member can nominate a current council member.”

Doss said then all council members could vote for the person they believe would be the best choice for president.

In November 2016, village voters elected Joyce Verplank Hatton as village president. Hatton beat out then-Village Councilman Steve Nauta and former Village President Bill Filber for the seat.

Hatton ran on a platform of dissolving the village and making it part of Spring Lake Township. On Aug. 8, she resigned from her post.

“It is extremely difficult working with a president with a single mandate,” Doss said. “A change in the current system could help ensure that we have a president that cares for the entire Village of Spring Lake.”

Doss said she would also like to see the president's term changed from two years to four years to keep it consistent with other council member terms.

Village voters will decide Nov. 7 whether or not they want to revise the Village Charter. If they opt to revise it, a Charter Commission would review the entire charter and potentially suggest changes to certain areas.

Burns said Village Council could then “ask” the commission to consider changing the village president portion of the charter, but it would ultimately be up to the commissioners to decide if a change is warranted.

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