In Nov. 15 IssueBy Derek AaronRussell County News Editor
This past election, voters in the city limits of Russell Springs chose the six city council members that will represent them when the year 2009 begins.
Those same voters approved the change from a commission to a council form of government last year.
The new Russell Springs City Council will feature Lisa Mann, Eric Selby, David C. Blakey and Ricky Barnes and two commission holdovers, Ray Barrett and Timmy Hudson.
Mayor Hollis DeHart has anxiously been awaiting the change for more than a year and ran for mayor on a platform of reestablishing a city council two years ago.
The governmental change, which was petitioned for and put on a referendum, passed strongly in 2007's November election.
The mayor, who took office in January of last year, will still serve as mayor over the forthcoming Russell Springs City Council as he has to serve out his full four-year term as the city's leader.
Now, individual commissioners are assigned responsibilities for a specific aspect of municipal affairs, such as public works, police, highways and the fire department, but that will soon change.
"Eric has been mayor before and he knows what it takes, Ray and Timmy have both been there before, Ricky is a lifelong resident of the city and cares for the city, David is a businessman and has a business right here in the city limits and Lisa worked hard for this position, campaigning door to door and she knows what it is going to take to succeed," the mayor said.
As his primary duty so far, DeHart has been taking care of the administrative portion of the city's business.
DeHart said under the current form of government, he has a vote on the commission, can make motions and do anything any other commissioner can do.
When the governmental change occurs at the first of the year, DeHart will take on a much larger role in the city's proceedings.
"I think that we may have some hard choices coming up, simply because of the economy but I think they are ready to make those decisions," DeHart said.
The mayor said he anticipated some "culture shock," with the new council members as they break in to their new roles.
"I'm sure they all have things that they'd like to see done and there is nothing wrong with that," DeHart said. "I'm looking forward to working with them and getting a good system of checks and balances in place."
DeHart said he would have a staff and assign them to particular areas once the change is active. His staff has already begun reviewing and changing the 300-page policies and procedures manual to coincide with the governmental change.
Under the mayor-council form of government the mayor does all the hiring, and those hirings are not up for approval by the council.
Other major tasks the mayor will perform while presiding over a council are supervising the daily conduct of the employees, setting work schedules, establishes work procedure in regulation to government activities, signs all contracts and checks, administers the city budget once it has passed as well as disciplining and terminating city employees.
The mayor also has the authority to delegate responsibilities to subordinate officers and employees, he will preside over council meetings and he can veto or approve ordinances.
The only time a mayor has a vote is to break a tie and if the mayor appoints an unelected officer, that has to have council approval.
Barrett, Hudson, Mann, Blakey, Selby and Barnes, the legislators, will enact all rules and regulations that apply to the general public as far as health safety and welfare is concerned.
The council members can levy taxes, establish fees for city services and establish offices and positions. The council can also abolish those same offices and positions, according to the Kentucky League of Cities' legal handbook.
DeHart has said the council will set the compensation for all of the employees and that they will adopt an annual budget.
The council can also make amendments to the budget under the mayor's recommendation or their own and they also authorize for property to be purchased, when necessary.
In the matter of checks and balances, the council can also choose to dissolve any regulations DeHart has set in place if they so choose.
According to the Kentucky League of Cities' legal handbook, members of the city council are not subordinate to the mayor. The members of the city council have, as elected officers, a co-equal status with the mayor.
DeHart said he would rely on his staff greatly during the transition time but said he expected things to go smoothly.
He said the first order of business for the new council would be to look at the city's economic issues.
"We've got people losing their jobs and companies laying off right now and that is going to have an effect on payroll tax, even property tax, so there is a number of financial issues we're going to have to look at."
DeHart called the upcoming year a "challenge."
"But I look forward to it and look forward to working with the newly-elected people and those that came back."