Form of Government

Draper’s Form of Government - Mayor Troy K. Walker

   It’s been said the two things you do not want to watch being made are law and sausage.  Since our state sausage making facility (i.e. the legislature) is in full operation, I thought I would take a moment and go over how our local sausage plant operates.  In Draper, we have a Council Manager form of government.  We have five (5) part-time Draper City Council Members and a part-time Mayor.  Each of us serve four (4) year terms which are staggered in such a way that every two years either three (3) council members or the mayor and two (2) council members stand for election.  We are all elected “at large” meaning we each represent the entire city not just individual areas.

  By law, the day-to-day management and operation of our city is handled by our professional Draper City Manager.  Our city manager and our other executive leaders are all appointed by the mayor with the advice and consent of the city council.  The city manager and the other appointed officials serve at the pleasure of the council.  Once an official is appointed, only the council has the power to remove the appointed official, except for our Draper Municipal Court Judge who stands for retention election every four years. 

   In our form of government, the city council functions in both an executive and legislative capacity.  The council’s executive powers are exercised when they hire and/or fire the city manager and when they set the city budget.  It is important to understand that city council members do not hire, fire, manage or direct individual city departments.  They most certainly do not direct law enforcement or fire/rescue operations.  They do not direct prosecutions in our court, they do not direct our municipal court judge, and they do not manage code enforcement operations.  Rather, the council sets policy and interacts as a body with the city manager.  The city manager carries out the council’s policy directives.  When acting in its legislative capacity, the council enacts ordinances, passes resolutions and sets the city budget. 

    As the Mayor of Draper City, my duties include:  acting director of our emergency operations center, chief budget officer (I delegate this task to our Chief Financial Officer), setting the council agenda, running city council meetings and appointing city officials and citizen board members.  I also officially speak for the city when a majority of the council directs me to and when city policies have been established by the council.  I only vote on issues that come before the council if there is a tie either by an absence of a council member or an abstention by a member.  Interestingly, under our code I only vote if I want to.  So, if your issue comes up in a tie vote, I could be the deciding vote.         

   Because the city council has five regular voting members, it can only officially act and it only officially speaks as a majority.  Therefore, the “mind and will” of the city council is whatever three (3) or more of them vote for on a designated issue.  Thus, they “speak” only in public meetings when they vote or when they, as a majority, give the city manager official direction.  All ordinances, resolutions and items requiring council action appear on a published agenda and are voted on in official public meetings.            

  It is important to understand the  distinction between a “council member” and the “council.”  For example, no individual council member speaks for the city or establishes city policy.  Keep in mind, when you communicate with a council member, and I encourage you to do so as often as possible, you are communicating with the individual council member.  Do not assume or expect statements made to you by a council member are stating anything other than their individual opinion or position on any matter. Thus, you should never feel intimidated or empowered by a council member’s statements because they are not official city statements.

   Our public process guarantees that all the council decisions are public.  Because the council members each represent the entire city, they are responsible to make decisions that are in the best interests of the entire city.  That forces them to deliberate as a body.  I can tell you that some of the decisions are very difficult. Speaking from experience, sometimes you do not know how you will vote on an issue until the mayor calls for your vote.  The public process is what brings the individual council members together on any given issue. They seek input from residents and city staff, they debate amongst themselves, and then finally cast an official vote.  

When you communicate with an individual council member either by email or in person, you get their individual political opinion and view on an issue.  They only speak as a council when they vote as a majority.  Some council members, myself included, will take to social media i.e. Facebook, Twitter etc.  In that realm, we all have an agenda and we make statements, offer criticisms, and pontificate our views on issues.  However, keep in mind this is individual “political” communication.  The city does not maintain social media for council members.  Thus, a council member’s social medial presence is their own personal property and is maintained and edited by them.  Also, council members answer their own email because it is against the law for city staff to do political work for a council member.  Remember, we are politicians and thus, our individual communications in every instance are pure political expression.  Council members may “share” official information on in their social media accounts but that is not an official source of city information.         

 The city communicates its official positions, i.e. those already approved by past majority vote of the city council, via the city website, the city manager’s office and the mayor’s office.  My Facebook page as “The Mayor” is also official and is maintained by our public information officer.  If you need official information go to the web page, or contact me or the city manager directly. I keep regular office hours on Tuesday and Friday afternoons.  I am anxious and willing to meet with anyone on any city issue.  The council members are also willing to meet with you and are available via email anytime.   

   I hope this was helpful.  Remember our current form of city government was chosen some years ago by the people.  If you do not like it, you can change it.  Some cities, like Sandy City, have a strong mayor form of government.  The Sandy mayor is full time and is responsible for the operation of the city.  He also has veto power over council decisions and his full time focus is on city issues.  Each form of government has its pros and cons.    Come see me sometime and we can discuss government and your role in our local issues.  I wish you all the best and look forward to a great 2017.

                     Respectfully yours,

                     Mayor Troy K. Walker