Doris Gentry will remain vice mayor throughout her mayoral run after a weeks-long debate about the fairness of deploying Council titles during campaigns.
Tensions have run higher than usual on the council known for its civility and calm since the Jan. 21 planning retreat when Mayor Jill Techel questioned the role the vice mayor title should play in a campaign. Techel asked whether it would be fair for Gentry to continue in the position given her run for mayor in the November election against fellow council member Scott Sedgley.
Ahead of Tuesday afternoon’s City Council meeting, this question had yet to be debated in public forum, though a handful of individuals testified heatedly during the previous meeting’s public comment in favor of Gentry keeping her title. The Register received a significant number of emails and comments on social media on both sides of the debate.
But by Tuesday, it appeared the issue had already been resolved.
“Doris and I met yesterday, and we both agreed with the staff report,” Techel said prior to the start of public comment. Her suggestion to the staff, she said, was to allow Gentry to continue as vice mayor.
According to the staff report, “an individual member of Council is acting on behalf of the City Council only if authorized by the City Council, or if acting under the authority of City Charter Sections 59 or 59A.” Typically, it says, this happens when council members are conducting public business during “open and public meetings.”
The staff report also lists public functions where the mayor or vice mayor may represent the city and, therefore, use the respective title, an early example of why this debate started. Examples, it says, include “ribbon-cutting ceremonies, proclamation presentations, school tours or Chamber of Commerce luncheons.”
These new parameters clarify when it’s appropriate to use official titles outside the chambers of City Hall, basically allowing members to use them as they did before. That includes in campaign literature, City Manager Steve Potter said in an email.
Before Tuesday, Gentry hosted a “Vice Mayor’s Breakfast” at Hillside Christian Church on Feb. 1 and used the hashtag #ViceMayorWorking on a Facebook post for a campaign planning retreat. Both have since been revised and no longer include a reference to vice mayor.
Though public comment did take place, most seemed content that things had been handled. Five people spoke, four who would have voiced support for Gentry keeping the title.
Gentry ultimately made the motion for the end of this debate: “I make a motion to accept the staff report and move forward with my title as vice mayor.” Council unanimously approved.
“My hope is to keep the campaign out where it belongs and to keep chambers for the business coming towards us,” Techel said.
Feel free to reach Carly Graf at @carlykgraf, email@example.com or (713)-817-4692.
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