Kemmerer abandons ward system for city council elections

The City of Kemmerer has implemented measures to protect citizens against too much social contact. That includes closing the town hall doors to the public. In an announcement published on March 18, Kemmerer Administrator Brian Muir sent out an announcement which read, “In an effort to help prevent the spread of Coronavirus (Covid-19), Kemmerer City Hall will be closed to the public until further notice. However, our city staff will still be working diligently to serve you and are still available to help with your needs.”

What does that look like? Community members are encouraged to call in at 307-828-2350 or send an email to [email protected]  Fax and mail are also accepted. Payments can be made with a credit or debit card on the phone, mail in a check or drop a payment in the night drop box. What about the other city business? How can citizens receive notice on issues and give input to council? An example is the issue for an ordinance change that was proposed on March 9, with a first reading to eliminate the “ward system” for running for public office.

Historically, Kemmerer has been divided into three ward seats on the Kemmerer City Council. A proposal was made to eliminate the ward system and go to an “at-large” system. In an at-large system, every other year three council positions become available. Residents from any part of town can run, and the top three vote-counts get the job.

So, how was input gained for this ordinance change? Council meetings are still open to the public, with social distancing rules in place. The City of Kemmerer did make a Facebook post on March 9, starting with, “Attention Kemmerer Residents” and ending with “We look forward to hearing your voice in this important matter.” In between was a lot of important information on the matter at hand.

By April 25, the post had received seven likes, five comments and two shares. Changing to an at-large vote in a city the size of Kemmerer is not unheard of. The important thing is to fill those council seats, the reason for the proposed change in the first place.

Robert Bowen, a current council member said, “The city does try to reach as many people as possible. Word of mouth is the fastest way to spread information although a few people follow the city of Kemmerer Facebook page. We will post to that page and people will share from there. Social media is probably the most successful way of sharing information. We do have citizen notification system, like snow plowing a certain street or some emergency, but it only goes to people who have signed up.”

“I urge anyone who would like to be a part of our guiding group for our community to step forward and be on council,” Bowen added. Bowen’s current term ends in December and he plans on continuing his public service by running for mayor.

The ordinance was ultimately passed on three readings. Bowen said he got all positive feedback. The new ordinance will go into effect this year. No matter where you live in town, you can run for any open seat.


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