Evart to put appointment of city clerk proposal on ballot

Difficulty finding qualified candidates an issue

EVART — Evart residents will, once again, be asked to vote on whether or not to make the city clerk position an appointed position rather than an elected position.

Evart City Council agreed to begin the process of putting the issue on the ballot for 2022.

Current city clerk Kathy Fiebig addressed the council during a meeting in November asking they consider amending the city charter to make the position an appointed position rather than an elected position.

Fiebig noted the position has been problematic for several years because elected officials must be registered voters of the city, as well as a resident for at least six months prior to the election, which greatly restricts the candidate pool.

“Election management is becoming increasingly technical, as are some of the other functions of the clerk’s office,” she told the council. “If the clerk is elected, the city has no control over the qualifications of the person elected, and no control over their actions.”

She said the salary for the position, which is set by the Pay Commission that meets every odd year, has been raised and lowered a number of times, and in recent years it has been difficult to find anyone willing to run for the office.

“In 2020, the pay was reduced by over 50% and the job description was reduced accordingly,” Fiebig said. “The duties removed from the clerk were added to other city employee’s tasks. It required and extensive recruitment effort to fill the position after the previous clerk resigned.”

In addition, in 1995 the Pay Commission recommended to the council that a job description be developed and that the clerk be appointed rather than elected, Fiebig noted.

“This would widen the applicant pool, as the residency requirement would no longer apply,” she said. “I believe it is time to address the issue of salary and elected versus appointed.”

Council member Sandy Szeliga said the issue had been placed on the ballot before and was defeated, suggesting that council will need to educate the public on the benefits of the proposal.

Evart is one of the few cities in Michigan that has not already made the change from elected to appointed city clerk, Mayor Chris Emerick said.

The Reed City city charter states that all administrative offices other than the city manager and the attorney, including the city clerk, are appointed by the city manger subject to approval of the city council.

According to the Big Rapids city charter, the city clerk is selected and appointed by the city commission.