A measure to directly elect a mayor in Buellton is one step away from the November ballot after a narrow decision last week by the City Council.
In a 3-2 vote, council members agreed to consider a resolution Jan. 23 to place an initiative on the Nov. 4 ballot asking city voters whether they want to elect a mayor and how long the term should be, either two or four years.
At the moment, Buellton is the only incorporated city in North County not to directly elect a mayor. Instead, council members select a mayor for a one-year term among themselves.
In December, John Connolly was chosen as mayor. Leo Elovitz is the vice mayor, also a one-year term.
On Thursday, both cast the dissenting votes against moving forward a resolution, the necessary step for a ballot measure, with council members Ed Andrisek, Judith Dale and Holly Sierra in favor.
Sierra, who requested the mayor ballot item be added to an agenda for discussion during the Nov. 14 meeting, said she believes it does residents a “disservice” by annually appointing a mayor for the city of about 5,000 residents because the role includes additional duties than the other council members.
“The mayor position does do a lot more,” she said.
To maintain continuity, Sierra, who served as mayor in 2012, prefers a two-year term.
Elected in 2008, Sierra was re-elected to the council in 2012.
Giving each council member an opportunity to serve as mayor is critical, Connolly said. All five members are more aware of what is going on and the spreading of knowledge among the panel makes the council stronger, he said.
Connolly is the only current council member not elected to the position. He was appointed in March 2011 to fill the seat that had been held by Russ Hicks since 1994 until his death in January 2011.
Elovitz, elected to the council in 2012, said he has changed his mind about a mayoral election since taking his seat. He believes the effectiveness of the functionality of the council could be impaired by changes on the council. The existing rotation gives valuable experience to each council member, he said.
He had previously served on the council from late 2011 to June 2012 as a temporary replacement for Connolly, who was away on a military deployment.
The longest serving member on the City Council, Andrisek said he is pleased with the current arrangement and that local governance is not lost when the council works together. However, he added that the public should have a chance to decide.
Elected in 2006, Andrisek won re-election in 2010. He is the only person to have served on the City Councils in Buellton and Solvang.
Dale, elected in 2010, favored putting the measure on the ballot and a two-year term.
“I feel we should let the people decide,” she said.
If adopted in November by a majority of voters, one of the three council seats in the 2016 regular election would become one for mayor and at the term approved by the voters — two or four years. Seats for Elovitz and Sierra expire in 2016.