Candidates for Baxter mayor being sought
BAXTER - Candidates for the vacant Baxter mayor position may submit letters of interest. That was the consensus from the Baxter City Council Tuesday night. During a workshop session, the council looked at options to appoint a mayor. Two options b...
BAXTER - Candidates for the vacant Baxter mayor position may submit letters of interest.
That was the consensus from the Baxter City Council Tuesday night. During a workshop session, the council looked at options to appoint a mayor.
Two options before the council were to appoint someone to be mayor or advertise the vacancy. If advertising for the mayor's post, suggested deadlines included Feb. 20 for a letter of interest from prospective candidates, a Feb. 24 interview and appointment. The newly appointed mayor would take the oath of office and be in place for the March 3 council meeting.
"I think that's the most fair way, the most transparent way, that would be my preference," said council member Steve Barrows. Council member Quinn Nystrom agreed.
"I think it would open it up to see who is interested in being mayor and who is qualified," Nystrom said.
Council member Mark Cross was absent.
Acting Mayor Todd Holman said there is strong consensus for the second option and the timeline recommended by staff gives adequate time to respond. Nystrom suggested strict guidelines to ensure the interviews are fair and equal for each candidate.
Longtime Mayor Darrel Olson resigned Jan. 20 after he was given the choice to leave office or lose retirement benefits based on a little-known law. Olson said he was forced into resigning by the Public Employees Retirement Association (PERA) of Minnesota, which cited a statute requiring a 30-day separation between a PERA job and his elected position.
Olson retired from his job as a Crow Wing County assessor in 2013. Olson said his financial future was just too big of a risk to gamble when PERA stated the retirement benefits would stop Jan. 31.
A year-and-a-half passed with retirement payments coming in. Then, a few months ago, Olson received a letter from PERA saying he had an "erroneous retirement" because 30 days had not lapsed between his retirement and his elected position.
State law gives the city council the opportunity to appoint someone to fill the unexpired term if it is less than two years. Olson's term expires in 2016. In a tie vote, the acting mayor can appoint whomever he would like, even if the qualified person was not initially considered by the council. State law doesn't require the city to advertise for the vacant mayor's position.
In research on the issue, Kelly Steele, assistant city administrator, noted council minutes from 2007 when candidates sent in letters of interest and had 30-minute interviews. To be qualified, candidates need to be 21 years old, a Baxter resident and U.S. citizen. Steele noted a council member may be considered for the appointment as mayor, but they cannot participate in the vote.
Other qualifications the council may consider include leadership experience, past service in government or a nonprofit, knowledge of Baxter, proven ability to collaborate with other agencies and public speaking abilities.
RENEE RICHARDSON, associate editor, may be reached at 855-5852 or email@example.com . Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/Dispatchbizbuzz .