Amayor in fact, if not in deed

Published on Thu, Oct 14, 2004
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A mayor in fact, if not in deed

by Meg Olson

While officially Blaine will not have a new mayor until the end of the month, unofficially John Liebert has been selected to take over from Dieter Schugt.

“We just sort of chit-chatted about it and he’s the only one with the time,” said council member Ken Ely at the October 11 meeting of city council. When asked if they had already decided if Liebert, now mayor pro tem and acting mayor, was to be given the job permanently, council members indicated they were in consensus he was. Ely said the decision was made at the September 27 work session prior to the announcement of Schugt’s resignation in regular session. Schugt died of leukemia a week later.

Liebert and city manager Gary Tomsic were eager to emphasize that the decision was not final. “I don’t recall that discussion coming to a conclusion,” Tomsic said. “Council took no formal action.” Liebert said the unofficial nature of his selection as mayor had prompted him to skip the agenda item under further business, which read “presentation of oath to mayor Liebert – Monday, October 25, 2004.” There was no formal process,” he said. “We went through the preliminary stages.”

Officially a new council member will be appointed and a new mayor and mayor pro-tem selected during the regular meeting of October 25. However, the matter of who will be mayor appears to have been decided at an earlier work session, and council members will interview candidates for the new position at another work session, following which council will discuss alternatives and costs for the new sewer plant on Marine Drive.

Tomsic acknowledged a substantial portion of the process leading to a council decision on more complex issues occurred in work sessions. “The regular council meeting is typically reserved for council to perform the formal aspects of running the government,” he said. “I don’t think the council could possibly do their job well if every issue was thoroughly explored in regular council sessions. That’s what work sessions are for – having time to share information, solve problems, work towards consensus.”

Tomsic acknowledged that members of the public would need to attend the study sessions to be party to the information and arguments that led to the consensus presented in regular sessions. “Maybe what we ought to do is publicize better when we’re having a study session and what the topic is,” he said. However, he said, even if council reviews a matter in a study session, staff will present the matter to the public at regular session as well.