The government system of Hickory is perhaps not what many people expect. I've noticed that many people think the mayor is the person who is responsible for the running of the city, but that isn't so. Many people also don't know which ward they live in, or when they can vote. I'm here to clear these things up for you.
We have a council/manager system of government. Hickory was one of the first cities to implement this system, in 1913. In fact, we were the first in North Carolina, and the second in the nation. It was a close vote, with an astounding 97% voter turnout. Some critics say that because we adopted this system so early, it lacks the modifications that have made it successful in other places, and that the system needs to be looked at.
Our system involves 6 council members, one from each ward, and a mayor. This governing body is responsible for hiring the city manager, and for voting on budgets and policy. Most of the details of the governance of Hickory, including the hiring of all department heads, falls to the city manager. The City has provided a powerpoint you can find here.
Basically, a council/manager system puts the power of running the city in the hands of a city manager. This certainly has advantages, as a trained city manager has more experience with the details involved than a mayor, who is elected and not necessarily accustomed to the scope of the job. Another advantage is that the city is more stable during election seasons. However, there are also clear disadvantages. The clearest of these is that the power is in the hands of someone that wasn't elected. It also makes it confusing for citizens to know who to come to with problems. Lastly, when improperly balanced, the system can lead to bad relations. Take, for instance, the issue of whether the mayor should have an office in City Hall. This was put up to vote, and was one of the few issues the council did not agree on. In the end, the mayor didn't get an office, which definitely speaks to the balance of power between hired people and elected people in Hickory.
I am certainly interested in hearing your thoughts about the system in place.
Another part of the system is the wards and our at-large voting system. There are 6 wards in Hickory. You can see them below, or click HERE for a larger image.
If you live in Ward One or Three, you will have a primary in October. I do hope those of you in Ward One will vote for me. Everyone who lives in the city limits gets to vote for the Council seats for Wards One, Two and Three. That's because we have an at-large voting system, which means that each person in the city can vote for a person to represent each ward. I personally believe this system should be looked at, as it has effectively served the purpose of suppressing minority representation. That said, this is the system we are living with, so I do hope that you will all vote for me on November 5, no matter which ward you live in.
As always, please know that I want to know your thoughts! Your opinions are informing my opinions and I know we are all trying to work towards a better Hickory.