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Candidate opposes city manager change

This is an important election for the City of Elkins. We will be electing a new mayor, half of the council seats are up, and the citizens will be deciding on some important key issues.

I have been in attendance at many of the meetings related to the city charter changes. While some changes were needed, some changes had objections, and it was decided they would be placed on the ballot. This is the proper way it should have been done; however, some of the more controversial topics could have been decided after the pandemic when council was able to hold consistent public meetings. I am going to address each ballot question individually.

Question 1: Proposed City Charter Sections 1.04 and 3.08. These City Charter amendments would adopt a Manager-Mayor form of government in accordance with WV State Code 8-3-2 and assign certain administrative authority to the City Manager effective April 2, 2021.

This is the question that probably received the most objections in the charter change process. The City Council did not have a reliable way to meet during the pandemic. With a change so dramatic to the way our city operates, this should have been addressed when there was the ability to have in-person public meetings. One public in-person hearing was held with at the Phil Gainer Community Center with social distancing. Only six or seven people from the public were in attendance, and the majority of the people who commented (myself included), spoke in opposition to many of the changes proposed by the new charter, specifically the Manager-Mayor System.

At this time a city manager is not needed. This position could cost $100,000, and we have current city employees that should be paid more. Also, this individual would not be directly accountable to the voters as he/she would essentially be the CEO of Elkins and responsible for the overall administrative functions of city government. The mayor answers to the people as does the council.

At this time in the history of our great city there are much bigger issues at hand than adding a city manager position. This might be an option later down the road, but with our population not currently increasing there is no need to expand government in this way. However, if the citizens’ decision is to implement a Mayor/Manager form of Government, the council should support and work with the City Manager.

Question 2: Proposed City Charter Section 1.09. This City Charter Amendment would pledge full compliance with West Virginia open government and freedom of information laws.

This question solidifies the city’s compliance with the West Virginia Open Meeting Laws and the Freedom of Information Act. The city should always follow these laws and putting them in our city charter allows for them to be on the record in an official document.

Question 3: Proposed City Charter Section 2.02 This City Charter amendment would increase the term of Mayor from two to four years effective with the term beginning April 1, 2023. If the citizens determine the current form of government (Mayor-Council) stands, then a four-year mayoral term makes the most sense. We have 10 members of council; 50% who are elected every two years. The mayor should be able to work with a council member for his/her full term.

I have been involved in public meetings that have taken place regarding the Elkins City Charter. It is important that any elected body not only hears input but actually listens to input from the public before making decisions. This is an issue that the people will decide, and I will support the citizens.

The most important duty we can do is vote. I encourage everyone to do so on March 2.

Phillips Kolsun,

Elkins First Ward

Candidate for City Council

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