Editorial | Interim should be just that

Editorial | Interim should be just that

Danville City Council should fill open mayor position with someone who isn't interested in running for the post in the spring.

The city of Danville will be electing two mayors over the next seven months.

The first — an interim mayor to take the place of outgoing Mayor Scott Eisenhauer — will be chosen next week by the 14-member city council to fill out the balance of Eisenhauer's term. The incumbent is leaving his post to be village administrator in Rantoul.

The second will be the traditional off-year election — February primary election, April general election — to fill the municipal office for a four-year term.

But the person chosen by the council to fill the interim position could have an impact on the ultimate choice voters will make if the interim appointee chooses to run.

It's our view that the city of Danville would be best served if council members selected as interim mayor an individual who will not be a candidate to replace Eisenhauer on a permanent basis.

Second, in the interest of open government, council members should conduct their deliberations on Eisenhauer's successor in public.

There's no question the council has the legal authority to deliberate in private while voting in public.

But nothing precludes the council from both deliberating and voting in public. That would be the best approach, one that would have the effect of tamping down the inevitable rumors and conspiracy theories about back-room deals.

So far, at least four council members have expressed interest in filling Eisenhauer's mayoral slot.

Aldermen Ricky Williams and Steve Nichols are interested in both the interim appointment and being elected mayor.

Alderman Steve Foster said he'd accept the appointment but is not interested in running for mayor.

Finally, Alderman Mike Puhr, who is retired, said he, too, is interested in the appointment but not in running.

Circumstances like this — a clash of ambitions — have the potential to get ugly, particularly as they relate to the undeniable political advantages that go with even an appointed incumbency.

Naming an interim mayor who is not seeking election also would have the added advantage of allowing the appointee to make decisions and recommendations without speculation about the political motives behind them.

Alderman Nichols made a good point when he said Danville cannot afford a "caretaker" mayor. He's right — it can't.

Whoever is appointed mayor will have to approach the job with the energy required to get things done, not sit back idly as the months pass by. But an interim mayor doesn't have to be a caretaker mayor — there can be energy even in a temporary executive.

Being the mayor in a strong mayor/city council form of government is a big job.

The mayor's office stands at the top of the organization chart, overseeing multiple departments and multiple employees.

That won't be the case if Danville voters decide Nov. 6 to switch to city manager form of government, a model in which a hired administrator answers to a council and mayor.

In the meantime, however, council members need to do their duty by appointing an effective interim and do so in a way that does not confer an advantage on any candidate who'll be running next spring.

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