First few months on City Council
Since getting elected to a city council is a fairly unique experience, I thought I'd share what I've learned so far, and what I'll learn along the way. Some of this is probably specific to the York City Council, while other things would apply to whatever elected position you might find yourself.
After finding out the results of the election in November, and realizing I was elected to serve our community, my mind went to "what now". What do I need to know to do the job to the best of my ability? Our city administrator, Dr. Crawford, reached out to the two new city council members to arrange a time to hold an orientation with us and the mayor. That meeting was an opportunity to ask questions, and to learn practical information about being a city council member.
The swearing in of new council members took place on December 1st, my first official meeting. After we were sworn in, the council voted on who would be the President and Vice President for the council. These members serve in those positions for the next two years.
There was a plethora of paperwork to fill out, which our city clerk and HR Director have been a great help in orchestrating. This included receive an official email address from the city. Mine is email@example.com Since council members receive about $2K/year to serve, we had to fill out typical new employee paperwork. One thing that elected officials need to fill out are various disclosures. There are forms for conflicts of interest, potential contract relationships, and others. These forms are available from the Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission. They are also a good resource in determining what may/may not be a potential conflict of interest, and when those forms would need to be filed. I try to live my live above reproach, as much as possible, so I wanted to make sure I completed this process properly.
As a city council member, besides the council meetings on the 1st and 3rd Thursday of the month, we serve on a few other committees. Each of these committees has 4 council members on them: - The Finance Committee, which goes over the bills for the city every other week, before a council meeting.
- The Asset Management Committee, which handles the assets of the city
- The Ordinance & Judiciary Committee, which reviews and addresses issues related to our city's ordinances and other issues that may arise.
- The Insurance and Benefit Committee, which meets to discuss insurance needs for the city and other related conversations.
In addition, there are other boards/committees that members serve on. These are LB357 Committee, E911 Combined Communications Board, Aviation Board, Parks & Rec Advisory Board, NPPD Retail Rate Review Committee, York Area Solid Waste Agency, Anna Bemis Palmer Museum Advisory Board and York County Aging Services Commission.
As for who is on which committee/board, the Mayor asked for preferences from each council member as to which ones they wanted, but ultimately the Mayor selected who served where. A few of the committees had designated council/mayor representatives already determined. These would be listed as the Mayor and/or Council President as members.
I was assigned the Finance Committee, the Insurance and Benefit Committee, the LB357 Committee, and the Aviation Board.
As for who sits where, the President and Vice President have their typical seat, and the remainder of the council members were given the opportunity to ask for a seat, if they wanted. All requests were taken into account, and then a seating chart was presented to the council based on preferences by seniority.
At the second meeting, the Mayor announced these appointments.
After the first of the year, the new Finance Committee began meeting to discuss bills/vendors that were presented to the committee. Our city treasurer has helped educate all members on who the vendors are, what services/products they provide, and answered any questions we may have. These bills are then presented at the city council meeting, to be voted on. If any invoice needs to be paid to someone with a conflict of interest, these are separated out and discussed. Each of these would be voted on separately at the council meeting.
We recently received the city's audit from last fiscal year, which ends in September. I'm planning my next post to be about that process, and what it has looked like.
Overall there has been a lot to learn in a short time, but there have been many people who have helped guide us through the process and answer any questions we have. I appreciate each and every one.