The election cycle for the general city council seats for the City of Lathrop are evenly split with a pair going before voters every two years.
But if you want to be mayor, you better be ready to campaign every single time an election rolls around.
For more than a decade Lathrop has forced those who hold the city’s top elected title to defend that position every two years while a full city-council term lasts twice as long – creating occasional issues when a seated city council member throws their hat in the ring to run for Mayor and vacates the time that they still have left.
And some in the city don’t understand why it has to be that way.
For Bennie Gatto, who was Lathrop’s first mayor when the city incorporated back when the title was appointed by the council and rotated based on the recommendations of one’s peers, it makes absolutely no sense to have the mayor of a growing community campaigning almost non-stop if they want to stay in the position that they were elected to serve in.
“Being the mayor is one of those positions that takes some time to figure out, and the way this is set up now by the time the person in that position finally hits the ground running they’re up for reelection again,” Gatto said. “It’s a nightmare situation in that respect, and it opens the door to a whole bunch of other problems like needing to fill vacant council seats when somebody chooses to run during the middle of their term.
“It should absolutely be a four-year position, and I think that somebody needs to bring this back before the voters so that we can correct this.”
Lathrop Mayor Sonny Dhaliwal, who is now approaching the end of his third term, said that because the two-year cap came as a result of a decision by the voters – they had to approve the change from the h, appointed post to an elected one, and between two and four-year terms they chose the shorter – he can’t advocate one way or the other without seeming like he’s trying to influence what has to be a decision by the public.
But Dhaliwal did say that recent changes in campaign laws have made it difficult and cumbersome to run for reelection as mayor now that committees must be formally reformed every two years, and things like campaign bank accounts cannot be reused.
“I think that it’s something that should be discussed,” Dhaliwal said of making the change to a full four-year term like other elected council positions. “There are benefits to doing that, but it’s not something that the council can do on its own.”
Dhaliwal said that he has yet to make a decision about whether he’ll seek reelection to his position in November, but noted that he would be in favor of seeing a committee started that can examine the issue more closely and potentially take the steps to bring the matter back before voters.
Gatto was much more pointed in his comments.
“it’s crazy that we still do this,” he said. “We end up having to appoint people and talk about special elections and this scenario happens time-and-time again and we never do anything to change it.
“We need to make a decision as a city – either make it a four-year term, or go back to the appointment of the mayor as an honorary positon. Because doing this just doesn’t make any sense.”
To contact reporter Jason Campbell email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 209.249.3544.