Future of City Commission in Voters’ Hands

Whether the City of Shelton will continue as the only City Commission in the State of Washington is now in the hands of voters. During a special meeting Wednesday, the City Commissioners unanimously approved a resolution that submits the question to city voters on November 7th. Voters will be asked to decide whether or not the City of Shelton should adopt a seven member Council/Manager form of government, and abandon the City’s current three member Commission leadership structure.

Wednesday’s action comes in response to a citizen petition that was submitted to the Mason County Auditor’s Office earlier this week.There were over 220 signatures on that petition which surpassed the state regulated signature requirement (ten percent of the votes cast at the last general municipal election.) On Tuesday, Mason County Auditor Karen Herr certified that 157 of those signatures were verified registered city voters, allowing the ballot measure to placed on the General Election Ballot.

A citizen petition is one of two ways to get a proposition before voters. The other way is by action of a governing body – in this case, the Shelton City Commission. In June, Commissioner Tracy Moore asked city staff to look into the options to change to a council form of government. On July 10th, City Manager Ryan Wheaton brought information to the Commission. At that time, Commissioner Moore wanted to move forward with placing the measure on the November ballot but was stopped because staff had not drafted an appropriate resolution. The following week, July 17th, with a resolution drafted, Commissioner Moore’s motion to approve the resolution died for a lack of second. This “non-action” prompted proponents to go forward with gathering petition signatures which was accomplished in less than a week. On Monday night (July 24th), after a copy of the petition was presented to the City (earlier submitted to the Auditor’s Office), Commissioner Moore once again made a motion for the City to place the measure on the ballot bypassing the signature verification process. That motion was seconded by Mayor Gary Cronce. The motion failed with Cronce and Commissioner Kathy McDowell voting against, saying they wanted the petition to go through the signature verification process.

The City’s government has operated as a Commission for the past seven decades. More information on the proposed Council/Manager form of government, as well as the state laws that dictate council size, can be found on the Municipal Research and Services Center (MRSC) website.