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Sheridan's Special Election Asks Residents To Consider New City Administrator Ordinance

Catherine Wheeler
Sheridan City Hall

For years, Sheridan has debated whether or not it should employ a city administrator to handle day-to-day operations for the city. In July, the City Council passed an ordinance that updates a previous law that established the job. That new law has been challenged by a citizen petition, bringing the city to a special election on the topic. Wyoming Public Radio's Bob Beck spoke with Northeast reporter Catherine Wheeler to learn more about the election.

Catherine Wheeler: The city of Sheridan will hold a special election on Tuesday, November 5. That election seeks to answer whether Charter Ordinance 2202 should pass. Now, that ordinance seeks to update, if you will, the existing ordinance that established the city administrator position. [Charter Ordinance] 2202 has been described by most people as something that clarifies the responsibilities between the mayor and the city administrator, basically who does what.

Bob Beck: Now, there are a lot of people to think this is going to decide if the mayor is in charge of the city or an administrator is in charge of the city. Is that what's happening here?

CW: Well, not really. All that is being asked in this special election is if 2202, that updating of the responsibilities between the mayor and the city administrator, if that new one should take effect. Voting "no" in this election won't automatically get rid of the city administrator position. That's because the charter ordinance that established it, 2158, will still be on the books.

BB: So what's the history of this issue?

CW: Well, it kind of has a long history in Sheridan. Back in 2008, there was a special election about whether or not to establish a city administrator position, and at that time the citizens voted no, that they didn't want one. They didn't want a city administrator. But the topic kept simmering throughout town. And then in 2015, the City Council at the time decided that they were going to establish this position. And so they created Charter Ordinance 2158, which is the current, existing law that establishes the city administrator position. But a lot of people didn't like it. They think that the city administrator position takes power away from the mayor. They think it takes away the mayor's ability to govern and to run the city. Sheridan Mayor Roger Miller actually kind of ran [his mayoral campaign] on this topic, saying that he wanted to bring back this strong mayor form of government. He wanted to be the one running the city, doing the day-to-day, knowing what was really happening and making those decisions. And earlier this year the City Council decided that they were going to really study this issue and decide if the city administrator position is actually helping the city. And what came away from that subcommittee was that they did believe, yes, this is helping the city run more efficiently. And so they to updated the law that we already have, clarifying some of the responsibilities between the mayor and the city administrator. And that is what is being challenged at this special election.

BB: Okay, so what's going on? What are the details? The election is Tuesday.

CW: Yes, so the special election will be held on Tuesday, November 5. Seven polling locations will be open throughout town, and those will be open from 7am to 7 pm. Residents can pick up absentee ballots from the city clerk. The latest you can pick up one of those is 5 pm, November 4. The absentee ballots just need to be returned to City Hall by the close of the polls at 7pm on election day. From there, the city clerk will present the results of the election to the city council into the city on November 7 at a special meeting that will begin at 5:30 pm.

BB: Okay, this is probably important to clarify, but if I'm vote yes, what am I doing?

CW: You're voting in support of Charter Ordinance 2202. That's the one that clarifies the responsibilities between the mayor and the city administrator. If you're voting no, you're sticking with the original ordinance that created the position. But opponents to the city administrator position are saying that a no vote is kind of like asymbolic gesture towards getting rid of the city administrator position entirely. But it's important to know that the City Council doesn't have to go back to this issue if 2202 is voted down. They can just leave 2158 as it is and move on. But opponents to the position say that if it is voted down, it would be the opportunity for the City Council to really take a hard look at if this is what the people of Sheridan want and if this city administrator position is right for the city of Sheridan.

BB: Catherine Wheeler covers northeast Wyoming for Wyoming Public Radio. Thank you.

CW: Thank you.

Catherine Wheeler comes to Wyoming from Kansas City, Missouri. She has worked at public media stations in Missouri and on the Vox podcast "Today, Explained." Catherine graduated from Fort Lewis College with a BA in English. She recently received her master in journalism from the University of Missouri. Catherine enjoys cooking, looming, reading and the outdoors.
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