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From these 3, who should be E'town's mayor?

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Editorial: July 3, 2013

ISSUE: Input on Elizabethtown’s next mayor
OUR VIEW: Edna Berger recommended

For the second consecutive week, Elizabethtown City Council members went behind closed doors to discuss the vacancy created by Mayor Tim Walker’s death. Expect another discussion Monday.

While dealing with grief and loss, the council members have been faced with a critical decision regarding appointment of a new mayor. The six members alone have the authority to select who will complete the remaining months of Walker’s term.

Because state law establishes a 30-day limit to prevent indecisiveness from interfering with city government’s progress, you can anticipate a mayoral appointment at next week’s special meeting.

Although other residents have been suggested for mayoral consideration, the council confirmed that it will select one of its own. Bill Bennett, Edna Berger and Tony Bishop remain in consideration because they are willing and able to accept the appointment. Coincidentally, they were the top three vote-getters in the 2012 council election.

Picking a current council member who worked side-by-side with Walker over the past months, and in some cases the past years, is an important way to ensure that the progress he achieved and the plans he made will be carried out.

Each of these three council members have poured over the $60 million budget for the fiscal year that just started Monday. Unlike a person selected from the community at large, the council members are familiar with the reasons behind various elements of the spending plan and would require less preparation.

As meeting chairman Ron Thomas explained the council’s thought processes Monday, he solicited community input on behalf of the entire council. In response to that request, the editorial board recommends the appointment of Edna Berger.

The 68-year-old member of the business community has extensive experience working with and responding to the needs of the public. As chief executive, it is essential that the mayor be well versed in that skill set. As a council member, Berger consistently has demonstrated a listening ear. Her personality and mannerisms make it clear that she is approachable by residents from all walks of life.

While polite, she also has a forthright nature. She’s transparently honest and not afraid to speak her mind. She often cuts through the political gamesmanship or social niceties to deliver an insightful statement that summarizes the facts. Difficult decisions lie ahead for the next mayor and Berger repeatedly has demonstrated an ability to be decisive.

Finally, Berger has the right motive in seeking this job. She’s willing to give up part of her retirement to complete plans put in place during Walker’s administration. 

In expressing her reasoning in both private and public conversation, there’s no hint she’s doing it for personal gain, political achievement or pride. Her business, her station in life and her respect and the love for the city are the sole reasons she’s willing to step up in these unfortunate circumstances.

Also, Berger recognizes both her capabilities and her limitations. She already has said she would ask fellow council members to chip in and supplement her energy by representing the city on social occasions or ribbon cuttings.

Results of the most recent council election should not be the determining factor on this appointment. Because voters may pick as many as six council members, it is not a clear indicator of which one is their overall favorite. But nonetheless, those numbers also support Berger. She received 6,027 votes last November compared to 5,669 for Bishop and 5,522 for Bennett.

All these factors contribute to Berger being the logical and most effective choice to become Elizabethtown’s next mayor.

Having served only six months on council, Bennett has yet to distinguish himself in the position as demonstrated by the fact he brought copies of a multi-page resume for other council members to illustrate the skill set he believes would make him an effective mayor. Bishop, who has council experience similar to Berger’s tenure, offers a friendly nature which includes a bend-in-the-wind nature that can provide harmony for a council but not decisive leadership.

But this recommendation is not about criticism. It is about making the best of a sad situation.

In November 2014, Elizabethtown residents again will review a field of candidates and select the person, who in their view, is the most qualified to lead the city as mayor. In the meantime, six duly-elected council members will represent the voters’ views in this decision Monday afternoon.

Considering the field of candidates and considering her clear talents, qualities and achievements, the city of Elizabethtown deserves Edna Berger.

This editorial represents a consensus of The News-Enterprise’s editorial board.

The City Council invited public input on its selection of Elizabethtown’s next mayor. Here are telephone numbers for each council member:
Bill Bennett  769-8773
Edna Berger 737-6921
Tony Bishop  723-5984
Marty Fulkerson 735-2302
Kenny Lewis  737-1839
Ron Thomas   737-7090