Westwood looking to shorten council, mayor terms one cycle to comply with new state election law

Westwood_City_Hall_winter2015

Westwood is one of the northeast Johnson County cities caught up in the dilemma over how to handle a new state law that requires cities to move to November elections from the traditional April voting and to switch to odd years.

Westwood is looking at an option that will shorten terms to move into compliance.

Along with Prairie Village, Mission and Leawood, Westwood was in the position of being a city that holds even-year elections. The new state law addresses the transition for cities with odd-year elections but leaves a lot of questions on the table about those now on an even-year schedule.

To make matters worse, a staff memo from Westwood City Clerk Fred Sherman points out, the League of Kansas Municipalities differs from the opinion of the Johnson County Election Office and the Kansas Secretary of State on a key point.

LKM believes the 2016 elections need to move to November even though the transition to odd years is not required until 2017. The county election office, Sherman wrote, believes the election cycle will take place in the spring of 2016.

After the council discussed three primary options this month for moving to a new election cycle, Sherman said he is working on ordinance changes that would shorten terms. Under the proposal, Westwood would hold an election in April 2016 for mayor and two council positions. That term would run for 45 months, coming to a close at the end of 2019 with an election in November 2019. The other three council seats that were elected in April of 2014 would run through the end of 2017 – ending four months early – with the new election in November of 2017.

Because filing will open in January, the city’s new election ordinances need to be passed this fall. Westwood changed to its current four-year term election cycle in 1970. Before that, the mayor and all councilors were elected every two years.