HAINES (AP) -- Voters in Haines have decided to switch from a strong mayor system of government to a city manager.
The 242-170 vote in last week's municipal election came as a surprise to many but not to mayor Don Otis, who told the Chilkat Valley News he bet councilor Gregg Richmond $1 it would pass. The change will become effective October 2001.
Otis and city administrator Vince Hansen, likely to be the ones most affected by the change, both said Wednesday the decision was in the city's best long-term interest.
Under the change, a professional manager likely will take over the mayor responsibilities for budgeting, hiring and supervision of department heads. The city council will rewrite code to define the manager's duties.
The change to the manager system will coincide with the end of Otis' first term as well as a planned vote on combining the city with the Haines Borough. Richmond said he hoped the passage of a combined government would make the change to manager ''irrelevant.''
Hansen said he hasn't decided whether he would seek the job, which will offer increased pay and responsibility.
Conceived two years ago by the council, the manager vote was almost an afterthought for the city, which dropped plans for a public education campaign on the issue. But supporters this week said they liked the idea.
Main Street shop and restaurant owner Barb Stigen said she doesn't have any problems with Otis or Hansen, but voted for change for the sake of change.
''I'm not afraid of change,'' Stigen said. ''It might be a good thing.''
Elsewhere in the election, rookie councilor Thom Andriesen defeated controversial tour operator Dave Button, 366-52, for a city council seat. Button faces charges of violating the city's ordinance against soliciting business on public property, and the city council is considering revoke his permit to park his tour vehicles near the downtown cruise ship dock.
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