Sunday, March 9, 2014
PORTLAND - This year's election has just ended, and already the jockeying for next year's has started.
That's particularly true in Portland, which will have not only the usual City Council and School Committee races in 2011, but also a race for the newly created -- or re-created, if one takes a longer view -- position of popularly elected mayor.
Voters adopted a city charter change Tuesday to create the post, which will be considered a full-time job, with a four-year term, an annual salary of about $66,000 and a few powers beyond the mostly ceremonial duties the mayor now performs.
The chance to put an imprint on what is essentially a new position -- Portland last had a mayor elected by the public 87 years ago -- is attractive to City Councilor Jill Duson, who won another term as an at-large councilor on Tuesday and is considering a run for mayor next year.
Duson said she considers herself a collaborative leader who has experience in management as director of the state's Bureau of Rehabilitation Services.
"I respect the expertise of the staff on the city side, but I also have experience pushing for more, pushing priorities and moving things forward," said Duson, who has been elected twice by fellow councilors to be mayor, a position that now comes with a one-year term.
Beyond representing the city, the current mayoral duties consist mostly of chairing council meetings.
To be elected by the voters, a mayoral candidate would most likely have to outline a broad platform, Duson said.
"Having a directly elected leader whose set of overall priorities has been endorsed citywide" is an improvement, said Duson, who backed the elected-mayor proposal. But, she said, she would like to avoid potential friction between the mayor and a professional city staff that has, until now, largely been left to run Portland's day-to-day operations.
"I don't think I have the perfectly right idea on everything," Duson said. "I draw my energy from working with other people."
Duson surely wouldn't be alone in the race, although no one else is quite as up-front about their interest yet.
City Councilor David Marshall said he's certain that his Green Independent Party will have at least one candidate for mayor. He said he hasn't put any thought into running himself.
"I'm just really kind of excited that this passed," he said. 'This is a massive change for the city."
The current mayor, Nicholas Mavodones, said he will give some thought to running, even though he opposed the elected-mayor proposal.
Elected city officials in the middle of a term could run for mayor without giving up their seats, and would keep those seats if they lose. If such a person becomes mayor, a special election would be needed to fill their other post. Elected officials whose terms are expiring can run for re-election or mayor, but not both.
The election of a mayor means the at-large council seat currently held by Dory Waxman would be eliminated, coinciding with the end of her three-year term. The city would then have a mayor, three at-large councilors and five district councilors.
Mavodones, who said people have already urged him to run, said the race may draw a crowd. Since the business community strongly supported the elected mayor, with votes and money for the campaign, he expects at least one candidate to emerge with backing from the Portland Regional Chamber.
The League of Young Voters also supported the charter change, he noted, so it wouldn't be surprising for someone to run with that group's support.
Duson and Mavodones said they're not thrilled with the new voting system that was adopted along with the elected mayor.
With ranked choice voting, voters will mark their first and second choices for mayor. After the votes are counted, if no candidate has a majority, the last-place finisher will be dropped and that candidate's second choice votes will be allocated as the voters indicate on their ballots.
The process will continue until one candidate gets a majority.
Staff Writer Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at: