Clearwater County ratepayers will decide next election if it’s time they got to vote for a reeve.
Currently, the public votes on seven councillors, who appoint one of their number as reeve for a one-year term.
However, council is considering going to a publicly-elected reeve and will take the question to county residents in a referendum in the fall 2010 election. If the public supports electing a reeve, it would not happen until the following election in 2013.
Councillor Ken Qually said there are pros and cons, but he supports letting the public vote on reeve.
“I think it will alleviate a little bit of conflict within the council,” he said. “I think that’s a big factor within a lot of councils today, that there’s a lot of conflict within the organization.”
Choosing a reeve from among themselves can divide councils into camps. “It’s very easy to get sides.”
On the down side, the municipality could lose a good councillor if there is a battle for the reeve job.
“That’s probably one of the biggest issues. But overall, I think I’m in favour of it.”
There is also the risk that a poor reeve could be elected and the municipality would be stuck with them until the next election. Under the current system, a reeve who isn’t up to snuff could be replaced by their fellow councillors after a year.
Qually said he has spoken with counterparts in other counties where the reeve is elected and the reviews have been positive.
It has not been a big issue with the public, but the comments he has heard have also been supportive of the idea.
“I think for the most part the people I’ve talked to would like to see it.”
Councillor Earl Graham voted against the referendum motion, which was passed 5-2.
“I don’t recognize it yet as a real issue, at least not in my division,” said Graham. “The system we have, in my mind, is working fine.”
There has been little public reaction to the proposal so far, he said. “If anything, people I would say are fine with the present system.”
If an elected reeve was chosen, the municipality would have to redraw its boundaries to create six divisions instead of seven so that an uneven number of council members could be retained. Councils are required to have odd numbers to avoid deadlocks.
In 2004, Red Deer County electors voted 56.6 per cent in favour of an elected reeve. The county map was redrawn to include six divisions instead of seven. At the same time, the reeve title was dropped in favour of mayor.
Former reeve Earl Kinsella became the county’s first mayor in 2007.