Having called Castle Rock home for some time now, a question kept entering my mind. Exactly, how does our local government work? I decided a good starting point would be to visit Douglas County History Research Center, located in the Philip S. Miller Library. There, anyone has the opportunity to talk to Archivist, Shaun Boyd, to ask about anything and everything that might pertain to Douglas County history since its founding in 1861.
After narrowing down the search, it became apparent that after Castle Rock’s establishment in 1874, and following incorporation in 1881, it was the 1980s that became pivotal years for the formation of Castle Rock government. In an article from April 14, 1984, in the Daily News-Press, it reads: ‘Castle Rock voters took the first step toward becoming a home rule community by voting 626 to 161 for formation of the home rule charter commission,’ as the population was just approaching 2,000.
At that time, elected council members began to draft a charter for Castle Rock that would best govern the operations of the Town. It would be the foundation of a system whose laws would later take ‘precedence over state statues and other matters of local concern.’ However, it wasn’t until three years later, on July 1, 1987, that the home rule charter would be adopted.
Today, Castle Rock government can be quantified as a council-manager system. In a nutshell, it states that the Town Manager is like a CEO, with the council acting as a pseudo board of directors. The council members, who each representative one of the seven districts of the Town, then swear under oath to collect information from their constituents, as well as the Town Manager, to assist them in making decisions that impact the community.
It is one of two more predominant forms of government for towns and small to mid-size cities across the nation. The council-manager system creates a forum where every member has equal power as they work to balance and pass a budget, draft and enforce legislation, oversee Town departments and appoint departmental heads. Likewise, it lends residents direct access to their representative with matters of concern.
With a new council in place, designation of the Mayor and Mayor Pro Tem follows suit. It is the council’s job to collectively vote who will run the council meetings and be designated as such (for legal reasons). However, these positions hold no additional powers or influence within the group. It was a system that was established to create a fair playing ground, despite sometimes differing opinions.
While recently, the question has been proposed to residents of Caste Rock, as to ‘Why we are not allowed to vote for our Mayor?’, we should first consider some pitfalls that could arise from electing a Strong Mayor or Mayor at Large.
We have all seen the ugly side of elections, with the mudslinging and ruthless posted signs and commercials. Is that something we want to let open up in our community? This could also give Mayoral candidates the opportunity to be funded by outside political parties with other interests beyond making our community more safe and family-friendly, with a great economy and close amenities.
And though a great politician may surface – selling us on being a strong proponent of what’s the best for us, as a whole – there would be no checks and balances from an existing group to prevent them from doing what’s in their power to do: run Castle Rock exactly how they choose to, with or without listening to the important voices of residents.
Something to think about…