ZEPHYRHILLS — With all the cutbacks in government these days, City Council member Charlie Proctor wondered if this might be a good time to look at the top.
After longtime Mayor Cliff McDuffie announced last month that he's not seeking re-election, Proctor thought about the position, which is mostly ceremonial and lacks voting power, with the exception of the rarely used veto. He came across a 2005 recommendation of the city's Charter Review Commission to combine the mayoral position with the council president — keeping the title of mayor, but with the gavel and voting power of a council seat. Back then the City Council voted down the idea.
During a meeting Monday night, Proctor asked the council to reconsider that very same idea with a voter referendum in April.
"It's my opinion that the city has to lead by example," Proctor said, explaining that the city had to make budget cuts in all departments so it was time to look at its governing board. "I think it should go to the people to decide if they want to have a mayor that votes or a figurehead."
McDuffie, 77, who is at most meetings, is vacationing in Hawaii, but called in at the beginning of the meeting to say hello. He didn't comment on any issues.
Council president Jodi Wilkeson and council member Lance Smith said they weren't in favor of the proposal, pointing out how busy McDuffie has been representing the city during his decade in office. Council member Ken Burgess said perhaps they should instead consider defining the mayor's role, but no action was taken on that suggestion.
"This ordinance merely puts it on the ballot and it gives it to the people to decide," said council vice president Kent Compton.
Proctor pointed out that he wants to save the city a little money — the $6,000 annual salary — and never would have suggested it if McDuffie was running again. He made a motion to hold a referendum on whether to reduce the city's elected officials from six to five. Compton seconded the motion.
Smith paused briefly to consider putting the decision to voters, but in the end opposed it. Proctor's motion failed on a 3-2 vote.
"I tried," Proctor said after the meeting.