College Park’s mayor pro tem position could see changes in the near future after city council members discussed potentially expanding the role during a meeting Tuesday.
The current mayor pro tem is District 4 council member Denise Mitchell, who was appointed to her role by former Mayor Patrick Wojahn, and will serve until the new mayor is elected in November. Mitchell assumed leadership after Wojahn was arrested in March. She now serves under Mayor Fazlul Kabir.
“The elephant in the room is the fact that we had a mayor who was forced to resign suddenly,” District 3 council member John Rigg said. “We were very fortunate in that we had a mayor pro tem who could step in and fill those shoes.”
Rigg, who initiated the discussion Tuesday, said he thinks the mayor pro tem should have increased legal power in the city’s charter to lighten the mayor’s load. He also proposed delegating more ceremonial duties and council meeting duties — such as drawing up agendas and chairing subcommittee meetings — to the mayor pro tem.
College Park has “asked too much of our mayor for a very long time,” Rigg said.
Mitchell said she supports adding additional responsibilities for her current position and called them a “protocol for success.”
Under the current system, Mitchell said, red tape prevents the mayor pro tem from taking care of city affairs in the absence of the mayor. This is especially an issue given the city’s growth, she added.
“As the mayor pro tem, I could not do anything,” said Mitchell.
District 1 council member Alan Hew expressed that he felt the council should be especially careful when adjusting the responsibilities of the mayor pro tem in the city charter to avoid stripping power from the mayor.
But District 3 council member Stuart Adams supported the changes, saying a change in the mayor pro tem role would not strip mayoral power.
“I think this is just sharing executive duties amongst multiple people in a coordinated fashion that aligns with what the mission of the city is,” Adams said.
According to city clerk Janeen Miller, the changes would have to be enacted in both the city charter and council rules. The council will likely opt to vote on the proposed changes after new members are sworn in after November’s election, she said.
If the city moves forward with the potential changes, the council will hold a public hearing.