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Present City Management

Revolutionary changes were made in the form of the city government by a new charter adopted in 1916 under the home rule law theretofore enacted by the state Legislature. The number of wards by that time had grown to twelve, each represented by two aldermen, and many considered this body too large for the expeditious handling of municipal matters. Accordingly, at the spring election in April, 1915, a charter commission of 15 members was elected, three at large and one from each of the 12 wards. The following constituted the personnel: George R. Perry, Harry D. Jewell and W. Millard Palmer, elected at large; Gerrit H. DeGraaf, Charles R. Sligh, Jacob Steketee, William J. Landman, Claude O. Taylor, William Oltman, William Hensler, Stanley Jackowski, Joseph Culbert, Oscar Kilstrom, Daniel Kelley and Fred P. Geib, elected by the wards.

This charter commission organized by electing W. Millard Palmer, president, and John L. Boer, secretary. It was in almost daily session until the summer of 1916, when it submitted a proposed charter, which was adopted at a special election August 29, 1916.

The charter provided for a modified commission-manager form of government. It created a city commission of seven, one of whom was to be mayor. It continued a library commission of five members, and created an art and museum commission of five; an auditing department with a comptroller at its head; a taxation department with the city assessors at its head; a finance department under the city treasurer; and a department of law under the city attorney. It also established departments of public safety (police and fire), public welfare, and public service, and a purchasing department, the city manager to be the head of these four. It also created a body of seven trustees of the sinking fund.

The elective officers were the members of the city commission, judge of the superior court, one judge and one clerk of police court, city comptroller, two justices of the peace, four supervisors, and one constable from each ward.

The commissioners were to be nominated and elected as follows: One by the city at large, and two from each ward, by the city at large. The commission chose a mayor from among its membership. All nominations and elections were to be non-partisan.

The city was divided into three wards, the First including all within the limits on the west side, the Second all on the east side north of Wealthy street, the Third all on the east side south of Wealthy street.

The legislative and administrative powers of the city were vested in the city commission, which was empowered to pass all ordinances relating to municipal government, subject to the laws of the state and the provisions of the charter. The commission also was to act as a board of review and as a civil service board. Insofar as required by law, the mayor was to be the recognized executive head of the city, and such for ceremonial purposes.

The city commission was directed to employ a city manager, to be in effect the business manager of the municipality. He was to be the head of the four departments above specified and was to select the directors of each of those departments. It was also his duty to appoint--and remove for cause--all subordinate officers and employes in subordinate positions, such appointments to be made on merit and fitness only. In effect, the city was given civil service, the commission being the civil service board. It was the city manager's duty to see that all laws and ordinances were enforced.

The charter provided that the entire city commission, the treasurer, comptroller, three assessors and twelve supervisors (four elected from each ward) should represent the city on the county board of supervisors.

It provided that the name of any citizen could be placed on the ballot for any elective office upon the filing with the city clerk fourteen days before the primary election of a petition signed by 50 qualified electors of the district from which the candidate sought election. Further, any candidate receiving a majority of all votes cast at the primary for candidates for that office, should be elected. In case no candidate received such majority, the two receiving the highest number of votes were to contest at the election following.

An important provision was that "any proposed ordinance may be submitted to the city commission by petition signed by not less than 12 per cent of the registered voters." If the proposed ordinance was not passed by the commission, it was to be submitted to a vote of the people. The same kind of provision was made for the recall of ordinances. The initiative, referendum, and recall were made effective in the cases of all elective officers, except judges of courts of record.

The charter provided for important changes regarding public utilities. It said: "The power to grant original, term public utility franchises and to renew the same shall be exercised by ordinance, which shall become effective only upon receiving the affirmative vote of three-fifths of the electors." And: "No franchise shall be granted for a longer term than thirty years."

The charter of 1916 was slightly amended in 1918, 1919, 1920, and 1923. By these amendments it is now provided that one member of the city commission, to be nominated and elected by the city at large, shall be mayor; and that two commissioners from each ward shall be nominated and elected by their respective wards. The amendments aslo gave the city greater control over the public utilities.

The first city commission under the new charter was elected in April, 1917, and took office in May. Its members were: Commissioner-at-large, Philo C. Fuller; Julius Tish, William Oltman, Christian Gallmeyer, William J. Clark, Daniel C. Kelley, and William E. Tallmadge. The commission named Mr. Fuller mayor.

The first city manager was Gaylord C. Cummin, who resigned May 6, 1918, and was succeeded May 13, 1918, by Fred H. Locke.

CITY OFFICIALS. City Commission--Elvin Swarthout, mayor; John D. Karel, president; Edwin F. Sweet, Harry D. Baldwin, George H. Gruenbauer, Oscar E. Kilstrom, William Oltman. Department of administration and finance--Fred H. Locke, city manager; Elsienus DeVries, city treasurer; Rudolph Doornick, city comptroller; Joseph C. Shinkman, city clerk; Ganson Taggart, city attorney; Gerald J. Wagner, consulting engineer; James A. Kinney, purchasing agent; Frank C. Steinman, William Crewe, Judson D. Forsyth, city assessors.

Public service department--Walter A. Sperry, director; Lloyd Billings, chief chemist filtration plant; C. A. Paige, city engineer; Milton R. Adams, sanitary engineer; John H. Edison, superintendent highways and sewers; Henry W. Davis and John Bickel, superintendents of markets.

Public safety department--James Sinke, director; Albert A. Carroll, superintendent of police; George T. Boughner, fire marshall; Ralph E. Seeger, building inspector.

Public welfare department--Arthur E. Davidson, director; C.C. Slemons, M.D., health officer; A.H. Edwards, M.D., city physician; E.W. Schnoor, M.D., school examiner; Torrance Reed, M.D., Homer T. Clay, M.D., school physicians; Henry W. Lightner, superintendent of recreation.

Police court--Frank A. Hess, judge.
Justice courts--John C. Loucks, Harry L. Creswell, justices.

Prosecuting attorney, Earl W. Munshaw.
Circuit Court commissioner, Edward L. Eardley.
Sheriff, William L. Smith
Clerk, Mrs. Edward L. Wagner (serving deceased husband's unexpired term.)
Treasurer, Jess W. Clark.
Register of deeds, George M. Reed.
Coroners, Harmon C. Wolfe, Simeon LeRoy.
Surveyor, Theodore O. Williams.
Superintendents of poor, William J. Thomas, Isaac W. H. Appel, Ashley Ward.
County commissioner of schools, Allen M. Freeland.
County drain commissioner, Robert B. Patterson.
County purchasing agent, Charles H. Chase.

Senator, 16th District, Howard F. Baxter; 17th District, James C. Quinlan.
Representatives, William DeBoer, Ate Dykstra, Harold H. Smedley.


Transcriber: Ronnie Aungst
 Created: 10 December 1999
URL: http://kent.migenweb.net/etten1926/management.html