Evart city council aims to amend city charter

City clerk to be appointed, not elected

The Evart city council is working to change the city charter to make the city clerk an appointed position, rather than an elected position. Decision may come before voters in August.

The Evart city council is working to change the city charter to make the city clerk an appointed position, rather than an elected position. Decision may come before voters in August.

Photo courtesy of Evart Main Street

EVART — The Evart city clerk position has moved one step closer to becoming an appointed, rather than an elected position.

Evart city council adopted a resolution to amend the city charter to allow for the council to appoint the city clerk, giving them more control over candidate qualifications and contract salaries.

Current city Clerk Kathy Fiebig stated that this is the first step in the process of amending the charter to appoint, rather than elect the clerk. Once passed, this resolution goes to the Governor and the Attorney General for review.

“Changing the city charter will require a vote of the residents, and city staff is working toward getting the proposal on the August 2022 ballot,” Fiebig said. “Council already approved trying to amend the city charter to appoint rather than elect the clerk, and now I’m working my way through the legal process to make that happen. We do plan to have it on the August ballot.”

Fiebig told the council during a previous meeting that the has been problematic for years.

“Elected officials must be registered voters of the city, as well as a resident for at least six months prior to the election,” she said. “This greatly restricts the candidate pool.”

In addition, she said that the duties of the clerk are becoming more and more complicated and require a skilled person in the position.

“If the clerk is elected, the city has no control over the qualifications of the person being elected, and no control over their actions,” Fiebig said.

Another issue, she said, is that the salary for the position is set by the Pay Commission that meets every odd year and has been raised and lowered multiple times.

“In 2020, the pay was reduced by over 50% and the job description was reduced accordingly,” Fiebig said. “The duties removed from the clerk position were then added to other city employee’s tasks. It required extensive recruitment effort to fill the position after the previous clerk resigned, and in recent years it has been difficult to find anyone willing to run for the office.”

Fiebig noted that in 1995, the Pay Commission recommended that the position be appointed rather than elected. This would widen the applicant pool, as the residency requirement would no longer be an issue, the commission said.

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

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 manager subject to the approval of the city council.

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

A proposal to make the Evart city clerk an appointed position was placed on the ballot in 2018 and was defeated, Fiebig said.

"We intend to promote this heavily in hopes of passing it this time," she added.