As I start my fifth year serving on city council and my fourth year serving as your mayor, I wanted to take some time and remind everyone about the form of government we have in our town.
As I start my fifth year serving on city council and my fourth year serving as your mayor, I wanted to take some time and remind everyone about the form of government we have in our town. With that, I'd also like to touch on a few things that always seem to be confusing to some. Like Hollywood, things aren't always as they appear.
I want to start with the specifics on our government design. We are a Constitutional Charter city (also known to some as a Home Rule city.) In 1875, the Missouri Constitution led the nation in providing that the state's largest municipalities could provide their own structure of government by drafting home rule charters for approval by the voters. For many years, St. Louis and Kansas City were the only constitutional charter cities in the state. Today, 38 cities across the state are charter cities. In southwest Missouri, they include Carthage, Joplin, Nevada and Springfield.
Since a charter city only comes into existence with the approval of the voters, part of that vote is approving the charter itself. That charter is in essence our city "constitution" as it covers a variety of topics such as make up and duties of the council and the city manager, elections and referendums and how the charter is amended and how a council member or the city manager can be replaced. It's important to remember that the charter is a voter-approved document and can only be changed by the voters of Neosho – not by council!
Another specific detail in the charter is to define the role of the mayor. While there are towns across the state and the country that have powerful mayors, Neosho, by design, isn't one of them. Despite what some may imply (such as saying "the mayor did this"), mayors in Neosho cast a vote just like the other four council members of the council. He/she has no office at city hall and can't make or direct ANY decisions without a vote of the council. So just because you see the mayor on TV or quoted in the paper, at least for me, those comments are typically based on decisions and comments of the council – not solely any decisions or views of the mayor.
One final point I'll touch on relates to council prohibitions listed in the charter. Specifically, there are prohibitions that keep individual council members from abusing their positions. That includes provisions that specifically prevent individual council members from interfering with the city manager's day-to-day operation of the city or from directing city employees who report to the city manager to do something. I'd summarize that by saying this – if you ever hear ONE council member say "I'll take care of it" – be cautious. After all, in our city, no one council member has any authority and no one council member can promise or commit to ANYTHING without the approval and blessing of a majority of the council – and that approval comes from a public, recorded vote.
I hope the information above has been informative. To me, it's important that our community is aware of its government and how it is designed and structured. That understanding goes a long way to allow you to know who to go to and what to expect. It's also a reassurance that your government, by design, has very defined limits on what your elected officials can, can't, must, and must not do when it comes to carrying out their elected duties.
Until next time: stay the course, keep the faith, and may God bless Neosho!
Richard Davidson is mayor of Neosho.