End to direct mayoral election?

THE QUESTION of whether to directly elect the mayor may go to Westminster voters (Shutterstock).

Voters in Westminster may get the choice of whether to trade in the current practice of direct election of the mayor in place of a rotational system in which the job is switched among the five members of the city council.

At Wednesday’s council meeting, approval was given on a 3-2 vote (with Mayor Tri Ta and Vice Mayor Chi Charlie Nguyen opposed) on a motion by Councilmember Tai Do to direct the city staff to come back with a resolution at the next meeting – Nov. 10 – to call for an election to put the matter before the public.

The issue is complicated because, as a result of the 2020 census, the four council districts will need to be redrawn. Since it’s not known if voters will approve moving to five districts – with the mayor chosen among the five, and the position rotated among them – Do suggested that it might be possible to draw two different maps. Which map would be used would depend on the outcome of such a special election. City Attorney Christian Bettenhausen said it was uncertain whether such a two-map plan would be legally possible, and that further research would be needed.

The next general election is in June 2022. A special election ­– since it would not be consolidated with county and state balloting – would be more expensive. Interim City Manager Christine Cordon, who has served as city clerk, expressed concern about getting all the deadlines met for holding the elections, creating and certifying the new maps, especially if it’s unknown if there will be four districts or five.

In a general law city such as Westminster, the mayor is mostly a ceremonial position, consisting in large part as serving as presiding officer of the city council, but having little additional authority.

Some nearby cities, such as Garden Grove, directly elect the mayor. Some, like Huntington Beach, do not and choose the mayors among themselves, usually on a annual basis each December.

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