City leaders to consider putting proposal for directly elected mayor, other changes to form of government on Nov. ballot

Lawrence City Hall, 6 E. Sixth St., is pictured on May 3, 2016.

Lawrence city leaders will soon consider putting changes to the city’s form of government on the ballot.

As part of its meeting Tuesday, the Lawrence City Commission will consider a resolution to put the question of whether the city should transition to a system with a directly elected mayor and a six-member commission elected by districts on the Nov. 8 general election ballot. All terms would also be changed to four years long.

The mayor would remain nonpartisan, and would serve a four-year term, according to a memo to the commission. The city would be divided into six districts, and one nonpartisan commissioner would represent each district. The commissioners would also be elected to four-year terms, which would be staggered so that no more than three seats were up for election at a time.

Lawrence currently has a commission-manager form of government, which employs a five-member commission and an appointed professional city manager. The city doesn’t have a system of districts that would require the commissioner for each seat to live in a certain geographic area.

Instead, all of the commission’s members are currently elected at large and can come from anywhere in the city. Commissioners serve either two-year or four-year terms, depending on how many votes they received in the election; the top two vote-winners serve for four years, and the third-place winner serves for two years. Commissioners elect the mayor to a one-year term, and by tradition they choose based on whoever received the most votes in the most recent election, though there have been exceptions. The mayor presides over commission meetings and has ceremonial duties, but has no additional powers and, like other commissioners, works part-time.

Under the proposed changes, the city would retain a city manager to oversee the day-to-day operations of the city, but the new form of government would represent a mayor-council-manager form of government.

The city has not reconsidered its government structure in 70 years, and the City Commission created a task force last year to study the issue. In May 2021, the task force voted unanimously to recommend that the city consider a system with a directly elected mayor and a six-member commission elected by districts.

The Lawrence City Commission will convene at 5:45 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall, 6 E. Sixth St.


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