A year of change is in store for Iola council.
With the filing deadline only 10 days away, only three council members have filed for eight city council positions, plus a mayor.
Steve French and Don Becker, current office holders, and Jerod Kelley have filed for office. French and Kelley will run for ward four and Becker will run to represent ward three.
As for the rest of the current council, uncertainty is in the air on who will return and under which circumstances. Council member Nancy Ford said she will be running for council, but has yet to officially file.
David Toland, Scott Stewart, Beverly Franklin and Joel Wicoff each spoke to The Register about their current indecision to run, and their reasoning behind it. As of Friday afternoon, The Register had not been able to contact current council member Jim Kilby for comment.
DAVID TOLAND’S indecision is based largely upon whether a big field of newcomers is in the offing. Toland said he has been working to seek out qualified and motivated individuals to fill positions.
“Hopefully we will have a strong set of candidates in every ward,” Toland said. “I haven’t heard a lot of interest, which is disappointing because there are many opportunities to do good.”
The council is represented by eight members, two from each of the four wards representing Iola.
Toland said the council needs to find individuals who are motivated for the right reasons, not to accomplish a certain to-do list or items for personal gain.
“We don’t need ax-grinders or people with agendas,” Toland said.
Both Stewart and Wicoff said they plan on running for either a city council seat or as mayor. Current Mayor Bill Shirley announced that he will not run again.
“I am considering running for city council as well as mayor,” Wicoff said. “I am concerned about who is going to run for city council, and I am concerned about who is going to run for mayor.”
Stewart said Wednesday he will base his election plans on what Wicoff plans to do. He will run for council if Wicoff runs for mayor, and vice-versa.
“I am still contemplating,” Stewart said. “I want to see who else is running, someone deserves a shot.”
Of all the current council members who are undecided, Beverly Franklin is the only person to cite personal reasons as a motivator for her decision.
“I have enjoyed the past two years on the council,” Franklin said. “But I want to do some traveling, and I’m trying to decide if city council would interfere with that.”
She said she has not ruled out running, because she has enjoyed the more recent respectful and productive dynamics of the council.
ALL OF THE council members agreed the commitment is not one to be taken lightly, and requires time, patience and an open mind.
“There’s a learning curve, you need to have a good idea of how the process works,” French said.
French believes the system is set up for success, including four-year terms for top vote-getters of each ward.
The changes to the city council were adopted in 2011— changed from a three-person, two-year city commission arrangement.
Other council members differed.
“This form of government doesn’t make sense,” Toland said. “It needs to be changed to a five-person council or a commission.”
He said the ward system is “unwieldy” as well, making it too easy for candidates to garner votes in such a small community. He said for a metropolitan area sectionalized voting areas can be helpful, but not for a small rural town. In addition, he believes the eight-person council results in a slow-down of decision making.
Stewart reflected Toland’s sentiments, agreeing with changes in council size, wards, as well as the four-year term, which he says is too long.
“It’s not an easy job,” Stewart said, “I’m reluctant to tie myself down for four years.”
Ford, who cited her reason for running from receiving many requests from the public, said she thinks the size of the council could be smaller, and the terms could be shorter, but contends that a ward system is beneficial to the different neighborhoods in the city.
In the end, the system was voted on by the public and both Wicoff and French said they believe the council should be run the way the public thinks it should be run.
Nonetheless, Toland, among others, hopes to see some changes in the future.
“I am going to support efforts for a five-person council with three-year terms,” Toland said.