Hilliard voters to decide if change in city's government is needed

File Photo - City of Hilliard (WBNS-10TV)

For 165 years, the city of Hilliard has always maintained that a strong mayor form of government is best for its citizens.

In the “mayor-city council” form of government, Hilliard voters elect a Mayor to be the Chief Executive Officer of the city and also vote for seven city council members, thereby creating a separation of powers between the executive (mayor) and the legislative branch (city council).

The mayor has the power to introduce legislation to the city council and he/she can declare a public disaster. The mayor has the authority and is required to see that the charter and the ordinances of the city are faithfully enforced, and to that extent, he/she is the chief law enforcement officer of the city. The contest for the Office of Mayor is partisan and the person elected serves a four-year term.

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But times have changed and now voters will be asked to decide if a switch to a city manager run city is better.

Under this form, Hilliard voters would continue to elect members to city council, who then, by a 2/3 affirmative vote, would appoint a city manager to be the Chief Administrative/Executive Officer of the City.

The city manager would report directly to the city council and he/she implements the city’s operating and capital budgets as approved by the city council, and implements policies as directed by council.

That's what is behind Issue 33.

City Council member Andy Teater, who was elected nine months ago, says he supports a change.

"Its important right now for Hilliard because we've grown from 1990 {where} we had 10,000 people, in 2018 we have over 34,000 people. As we've grown the need for professional management is needed," he said.

Council President Al Losue disagrees.

"I believe it's going to take away the checks in power between the legislative branch and the administrative branch of government," he says.

Hilliard is surrounded by other cities who made the switch to a city manager run government decades ago.

Westerville changed in 1916, becoming the first village in Ohio to adopt the new form of government.

Worthington followed in the 1950's and Dublin in the late 1980's to name a few.

But there's more at work here than changing how the government works.

Both sides agree the city had divided leadership.

"There's a lack of unity," says Teater.

"Right now we have a divided council, we have a difference in ways we want our city to go on several different aspects, " says Losue.

If voters approve Issue 33 it would not take effect until January of 2020.

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