“If he (Council President Paul Koomar) decides to take it, I would step down….”
By a vote of 5-1, Bay Village City Council acted last night to name Law Director Gary Ebert Interim Mayor.
The move comes as incumbent Debbie Sutherland prepares to step down after submitting a letter of resignation effective Oct. 1.
The appointment of Ebert as Interim Mayor is not without precedent. He assumed the role in 2000 when then-Mayor Tom Jelepis resigned to take a position with the Board of Elections.
Then, as now, President of City Council is directed by City Charter to serve as successor.
This time around, current Bay Village City Council President Paul Koomar is in line to move up. But he set the matter to rest temporarily at the beginning of last night’s council meeting by saying, “I have not made a decision yet.”
City Charter calls for the Mayor to work full-time, so – as it has been reported elsewhere – Koomar may need to set his professional priorities in order before stepping up to Bay’s top job should he choose to do so.
At the time of the Jelepis resignation, long-time City Council President T. Richard Martin was first in the line of succession. But he was not interested in taking the job. So Ebert was appointed Interim Mayor and served for about four months before then-Councilwoman Sutherland was voted in by Council.
Back when Mayor Chapman stepped down (circa 1992), first term City Councilman Thomas L. Jelepis was voted in by City Council.
In both the Chapman and Jelepis instances, their resignations allowed council a chance to hand-pick a successor to the mayoral spot. The moves then allowed those successors the advantages of an incumbency in the next election.
This time around, the job appears to be Koomar’s should he choose to accept it.
By all accounts, he is a highly-qualified candidate who has served multiple terms as both a Bay Village City Councilman and City Council President. Professionally, he is a CPA – always a good quality in a city administrator. Many believe that much of the City of Westlake’s success under Mayor Dennis Clough and City Council President Mike Killeen is linked to their deep understanding of fiscal matters. Both are CPAs.
What if Ebert should remain as Interim Mayor until the next Bay Village mayoral election? The next election for Bay Mayor is November, 2017. At that time, the race would of course be open to all candidates.
“This is all about making a smooth transition, especially coming mid-term,” said Ebert of the Interim Mayor title. “We want there to be a smooth transition for the city, for our projects and for our department heads so there are no misunderstandings about the projects that are before us now.
“Paul Koomar still has the ability to take the position. If he decides to take it, I would step down,” added Ebert. “The resignation came as a sudden thing for Paul and all of us as far as having to make an immediate decision. But I do not intend to run for Mayor.”
Another name brought up by some is Councilman at Large Dwight Clark. He is a long-time City Councilman who serves today as Councilman at Large. He is a proven civic leader and respected city father. He could be eligible for appointment should Koomar defer. Clark also has a strong financial background as a bank vice president with a Masters in Business Administration.
The question is now, will Koomar step up and run with the advantage of an incumbency?
For now, the appointment of Gary Ebert leaves Bay Village in good hands as the city faces a number of important issues, including the Pellet Drive dog attack issue, the departure of Service Director Scott Thomas and several other hot-button items like the Humiston Drive building issue. In addition to his past service as Interim Mayor, Ebert has served as acting mayor on several occasions.
In her letter of resignation, Mayor Sutherland said, “When I first took this job in 2000, I said that if the time ever came that I was required to manage minutia rather than drive big, transformative projects, it would be time for me to go. That time has come.”
Mayor Sutherland succeeded in accomplishing some great goals for Bay Village, including the new Aquatic Center and Police Station. She also steered the city through tough recessionary times.
But, truth is, much of being Mayor is about managing minutia like buying road salt and keeping the books balanced. Whoever the new mayor eventually is, it really will be about embracing the grind.