The Centerville City Council Tuesday interviewed three residents who submitted letters of interest to serve out the remaining mayor term following the death of Jim Senior. The term remaining is about 1.5 months.
The special meeting at City Hall lasted nearly 45 minutes. Each councilman asked the same question of the three candidates — Pat McAfee, Jay Rogers and Jan Spurgeon.
Councilman Richard Smith’s question: Do you intend to run for political office in November?
Not one of the three ruled it out, completely.
Rogers said he has already filed papers to run for the council seat in Ward 2 currently served by Edwin Brand.
Rogers’ answer to Smith’s question caused Councilman Jennings Dillard to ask a followup: Why would you want to be mayor for so short a time and wouldn’t it be a better use of your time to be campaigning for the city council?
“I am a great promoter. That’s what I do and that’s what I see me in the role of mayor as,” Rogers said. “Not that I want to go after mayor. I’d rather work as a city councilman and learn that and then if sometime the city mayor interests me then I would run for it.”
Spurgeon said she couldn’t say for sure.
“I have not made a decision to that,” she said. “Should I be appointed it would be a great opportunity to test the waters.”
Spurgeon tempered her remarks by stating before she ran for office she would want see how well she was accepted as a community ambassador and spokesperson as mayor.
McAfee said she was still considering a run for office in November but wanted first to see how well she would fit in with the team already in place.
“Every organization has a personality and sometimes persons that come in the team just don’t fit as well as others and so I would be evaluating and I would expect that the council and the staff would be evaluating me at the same time,” McAfee said.
Councilman Rob Lind asked the candidates what they see as the mayor’s role in furthering city goals given a “new professionalism” with the hiring of a city administrator.
Rogers said professionalism is “right in my wheelhouse in terms of customer engagement, interaction, citizen engagement, interaction. I think I would be very beneficial in that role.”
Spurgeon answered Lind’s question by stating the mayor’s role is to facilitate meetings, work with the city’s professional staff and be able to communicate council decisions to the public, press and organizations.
McAfee answered Lind’s question by stating the mayor’s role is to be an advocate, communicate with citizens, run meetings and sign certain documents. As mayor, McAfee said she would not get involved in the city administrator’s day-to-day operations of the city.
McAfee said she would listen to citizen’s concerns, address the ones she can, then turn over the other concerns to the city administrator to determine priorities.
McAfee said as mayor she would explain to the citizens what the council is doing and what it means to them.
Rogers made a statement where he praised the other two mayor candidates then he explained why he would be the better choice. Rogers said he has been very active the last two years in city business and currently serves on the Airport Commission and Conservation Board.
The person the City Council is looking for to be mayor must be open-minded, an ambassador to the citizens, hit the ground running, champion the community, volunteer and participate in community events.
City administrator Patrick Antonen moderated the meeting.
Antonen on Wednesday called the Daily Iowegian to explain why he asked the council members at the end of Tuesday’s meeting to write their choice for mayor on a slip of paper he had supplied and were placed in an envelope and sealed. The meeting’s only agenda item was to conduct interviews.
Antonen said he never opened the envelope and had it shredded the next morning after talking to the city attorney and the League of Cities.
At least one Centerville resident complained the City Council participated in a secret ballot.
The same resident stated the City Council participated in a secret ballot when they voted to add Jennings Dillard to the council in April.
Antonen, who was not a Centerville city official at the time, confirmed the resident’s allegation, but said a 60 day window had expired.