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The Hillsdale City Council will research changing the city charter so the city clerk and trea­surer posi­tions are appointed instead of elected.

Acting City Manager Doug Terry, who rec­om­mended the motion at Monday’s meeting, said he believes this will put the most “effi­cient and effective” people in the roles of city clerk and city trea­surer.

“My intention is to put in an orga­nized foun­dation to make sure this city is run in an effi­cient manner,” Terry said. “The cit­izens have to have con­fi­dence that we have somebody in place.”

Coun­cilperson Adam Stockford opposed the motion, saying both posi­tions should be chosen by the people.

The city clerk is respon­sible for mon­i­toring elec­tions, keeping track of qual­ified voter pro­files, keeping official city doc­u­ments, and assisting cit­izens with general ques­tions, while the city trea­surer keeps track of the city’s money, which is partly accu­mu­lated by tax revenue. Since both posi­tions interact directly with the elec­torate, Stockford believes both posi­tions should be elected by the people.

“As a rep­re­sen­tative gov­ernment, people are allowed to choose their public offi­cials,” Stockford said. “We’re talking about posi­tions so close to the people that you go out to the front door to greet your con­stituents.”

Coun­cilperson Bruce Sharp raised con­cerns over the pro­posed $18,000 pay raise for the city clerk position, which was rec­om­mended by the Officers Com­pen­sation Com­mittee and dis­cussed by council at its Feb. 16 meeting.

“Where’s this money going to come from, and on whose backs?” Sharp said. “The fire department? Police? My concern is we just went through public safety hiring part time because they don’t have enough money. I want to make sure we can afford this and not on the backs of other city workers.”

Despite Sharp’s and Stockford’s con­cerns, Terry pro­ceeded with the motion to research changing the charter to make the posi­tions appointed, which council approved 5 – 3.

“The safety with having an appointment is he’s answerable to you,” Terry said. “One safe­guard is you have an effi­cient and effective means of eval­u­ation; you have direct ability to remove, dis­ci­pline, or change. I don’t believe it’s more effective having an elected clerk and trea­surer. I stand by my memo. I think it’s the right thing to do.”

The council also approved more com­pen­sation for the city clerk position, which will increase its salary from $7,435 to $26,000.

According to data com­piled by Matt Bach, the Michigan Municipal League Director of Media Rela­tions, and Indeed.com, the average salary for a full-time, city clerk position in a city with a pop­u­lation size of approx­i­mately 8,000 is around $30,000. The cal­cu­lated salary for the position in Hillsdale, which has a pop­u­lation of 8,305, is $33,000.

Coun­cilperson Emily Stack Davis opposed the motion to approve the com­pen­sation because she is worried about can­di­dates running for the wrong motives.

“Council hasn’t ensured the sta­bility of the clerk department,” Stack Davis told the Col­legian. “One of the con­cerns is an elected clerk has no account­ability to the city manager. An elected official is still subject to the will of the people, and you could get someone who’s not ter­rible but not really won­derful.”

Sharp shared Stack Davis’s concern, asking again where the council would get money for an $18,000-salary increase for the clerk position.

Stockford sup­ported the com­pen­sation for city clerk, which the council approved 5 – 3 Monday.

“Ideally I’d like to see the pay raise, become a full-time job, and the position remain elected,” Stockford said.

The council voted 7 – 1 to appoint Michelle Loren as the acting city clerk until elec­tions in November — or until it changes the charter and appoints a city clerk. For the past two years, Loren has filled the role of city clerk in addition to her role as director of the Recre­ation Department.

In other business, council approved Director of Chamber of Com­merce Christine Bowman’s request to move the 24th Annual Classic Car Show and Sum­merfest from the Hillsdale County Fair­grounds to downtown Hillsdale. This year, cars in the show will be charged a fee, while general admission will be free.

“WCSR will be our voice for the day, which will be fan­tastic,” Bowman said. “I think this could be a really pos­itive event not just for the chamber but for the city as well.”

Hillsdale County Com­mis­sioner Ruth Brown informed the council of an upcoming Hillsdale County Suicide Pre­vention Coalition event on April 27, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The event, which will cost $20 per person, will train par­tic­i­pants in suicide pre­vention.

“Suicide in Hillsdale is a two-sided coin,” Brown said. “Part of it is edu­cation of leaders in our com­munity, like police and hos­pital. I’m very proud we’re bringing this to Hillsdale for the first time ever.”

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Kate Patrick
Since she sold her soul to journalism, history major and Associate Editor Kate Patrick has covered business, the tech industry, city council, and city news in Washington, D.C.; Dayton, Ohio; Rockford, Illinois; and Hillsdale, Michigan. She creates extensive rock playlists and investigates abandoned buildings in her spare time. email: kpatrick@hillsdale.edu | twitter: @katepatrick_