January 30, 2009

Council may formalize succession plan

Photos from Thursday night's meeting.

It took two weeks of phone calls and searching through city code, but the City Council found an elegant way out of the mess Gary Becker left behind with his abrupt resignation. (Can you believe he was arrested just 16 days ago?)

Instead of duking it out over who would be the best fill-in mayor, city officials found a succession plan designed for a war-time emergency. As Alderman Greg Helding pointed out after the meeting, the plan allowed the council to pick an interim mayor without a divisive fight over the merits of individuals. The process led to Alderman Tom Friedel, who's in line to become the next mayor at Tuesday's City Council meeting.

The succession plan worked so well, the council may end up formally adopting it in the event of future problems with the mayor's office. Helding is already thinking about it, and mayor candidate Pete Karas has researched the idea. Given the confusion of the past few weeks, it's likely other aldermen are thinking along the same lines.

If history is any indication, it's likely they won't have to use the plan. City Administrator Ben Hughes said Thursday night there's no record of a mayor, other than Becker, leaving office because of an indictment. One mayor in the early 1900s apppeared to have left mid-term to pursue a business interest. Other than that, historically, Racine's mayors appear to be well behaved.


  1. President of the council is chosen by the 15 aldermen each year. The Chair of Finance & Personnel which I believe is the next one down the line of succession, is chosen by the mayor each year.

    So, does it really make sense to allow the person to take over for Becker a person whom Becker hand chose? This doesn't make me feel too confident about Friedel actually. I'd rather have the President of the council take over because at least that position is chosen by a majority of the 15 aldermen, not single handedly by the mayor.

  2. Good point! I never thought of it that way.