Amyx should remain Lawrence mayor until 2017, subcommittee recommends

photo by: John Young

Lawrence city commissioners listen to public comments about the mayoral selection process during the City Commission meeting, April 26, 2016, at City Hall.

Current Lawrence Mayor Mike Amyx would remain in his position until January 2017 under a recommendation issued Tuesday from a subcommittee formed to look at mayoral term changes.

The proposal calls for a new mayor and vice mayor to be appointed the second Monday of January 2017, which would align mayoral terms with a new City Commission election schedule. The Kansas Legislature in 2015 changed the law to require city elections to take place in November of odd years instead of April of odd years. The first election under the new cycle will take place in November 2017.

“We want a one-time, clear-cut fix for a situation, not born from this commission’s doings, but from both inside and outside forces that have wreaked havoc on our community the last year,” read Commissioner Lisa Larsen from a prepared statement Tuesday. “These recommendations will no doubt elicit both agreement and disagreement from the public. Please understand we do not make these recommendations lightly.”

The subcommittee, comprising Larsen and Commissioner Matthew Herbert — both of whom are not likely to serve as mayor in their terms — are also recommending mayors be appointed through the city’s traditional method of being the top vote-getter in a City Commission election, and the commissioner with the second-most votes would become vice mayor.

Amyx asked that the recommendations presented Tuesday be put onto next week’s City Commission agenda. Next Tuesday, commissioners will formally receive the recommendations and either take a vote or plan to take a vote the following week.

The recommendations were received amicably from both Amyx and Vice Mayor Leslie Soden. One of the options presented to commissioners earlier this month was to elect Soden mayor and either have her serve an abbreviated term, until January 2017, or a longer-than-normal term, to January 2018.

“We’re supposed to be at each other’s throats,” Amyx told Soden, who responded: “I know, I think we disappointed a lot of people.”

“I’ve wondered for a couple weeks what way you would go,” Amyx continued. “I’ve held this seat awhile in my life… I have the luxury of having the best vice mayor around. I think we’re a pretty good team.”

Soden said it was important to have an experienced commissioner, such as Amyx, serving as mayor, especially with the recent hire of a new city manager.

Herbert said it was his and Larsen’s intention that Soden become mayor in January, and Boley, who received the second-most votes in the 2015 election, become vice mayor.

“No commissioner is going to be deprived of their earned year as mayor,” Herbert said.

Herbert said Monday he and Larsen had discussed whether to change how Lawrence’s mayors are elected, moving away from a “ceremonial mayor system” to a strong-mayor form of government, in which voters elect mayors.

Both agreed that type of shift should not be decided by a two-person subcommittee.