June 6, 2017 Council Meeting

Philip Sinco, right, assistant city attorney, addresses the Santa Maria City Council on Tuesday night about an ordinance that sets all of the city's mayoral duties in stone. 

Coming off last month’s vote by the Santa Maria City Council to create four City Council election districts and one at-large mayoral district for its future election cycles, the council decided to look into what is required of its mayor.

Alice Patino is currently Santa Maria’s top elected official. Santa Maria’s first female mayor, Patino sought and won re-election to the office in November, and her current term expires in 2020.

“Like most other cities in California and most of the nation, the Santa Maria office of the mayor has obligations and duties in addition to those that apply to all members of the legislative body,” said Philip Sinco, assistant city attorney. “However, most of these additional duties and obligations in the city of Santa Maria, while being established by past practice, have not been described by policy statements or in the Santa Maria municipal code.”

The city’s new election process is law and will first impact two City Council seats in the 2018 election cycle by setting boundaries on where candidates can reside and what quadrants of the city voters can participate in during the next council election.

In May, the council voted that the office of mayor shall continue to be elected by all residents. And, on Tuesday, the council unanimously voted to adopt a new ordinance, crafted by Sinco, to set the mayor’s duties in stone, instead of leaving them as historic assumptions.

Once the city’s new election process is put into full effect, after the 2020 election, each council member will be elected by and represent a single district of the city and not the entire municipality. Each member of the council must also uphold the laws of the city of Santa Maria, the state of California and the U.S. Constitution.

Santa Maria’s mayor has to do the same, but the office will represent the entire city instead of a single election district.

Because the office of the mayor is required to do more than the rest of the City Council, the position is paid more. 

“Council gets $1,313 a month and she gets $250 more, $1,563,” City Manager Rick Haydon explained.

“I think the enormity of what you do, the fact that you are the face of the city of Santa Maria ... it seems obvious to me that you should be making a much greater premium than $250 above what the City Council makes. I am not sure how much of a raise, but I think you should get one,” Councilman Michael Moats said during Tuesday night's discussion.

Salaries were not changed by Tuesday's vote, but duties were defined. 

With Tuesday's vote, the mayor is responsible for presiding over all City Council meetings, can add an item to the council's meeting agenda and can set the location of council meetings. 

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The mayor is the city’s official representative as its leader in official and ceremonial capacities.

“There are days where my day starts out at 7 a.m. and doesn’t end until 10 p.m. when I get home and there are a lot of things to do in between," Patino explained. "I think a lot of people think that we just show up on the first and third Tuesday and that it is it. There are a lot of things to do; it can be like a full-time job."

The office of the mayor has the concrete authority to appoint representatives to many of the city's government’s boards and commissions, and also appoints a member of the City Council as mayor pro tem, to act in the mayor's absence. 

The office of the mayor has the authority to approve timecards and costs associated with the offices of the city manager and attorney. The person elected mayor is also required to oversee the signing of all contracts, meeting minutes and official documents.

Tuesday night’s vote does not make any changes to the current government structure. The city of Santa Maria is a council-manager style of government, where the entire council and its administrative staff work together to set the city’s policies and rules.

Logan B. Anderson covers city government in Santa Maria for Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Follow him on Twitter: @LoganBAnderson.