Front Royal Council approves changes to town charter
The Warren SentinelFRONT ROYAL, Nov. 26 — On a 5-1 vote, the town's charter amendments — including moving elections to November and specifying those elections be non-partisan — were approved with relatively little discussion Monday night.
It was the second time the council had held a public hearing on the changes, the third meeting the matter could have been voted upon, and the last regular meeting the changes could have been approved in time to be considered during the upcoming session of the Virginia General Assembly.
The council delayed a vote on Oct. 22 due to a member's absence. At the Nov. 13 meeting, the town attorney determined that changes the council made during that session had altered the proposal enough to require a re-advertising of the amendment for Monday night.
If approved by the General Assembly, the charter amendment would move town elections from May to November of even years and extend the current terms of sitting councilmen and mayor by six months. It would also specify that the elections stay non-partisan, as they have been by tradition.
The amendment also includes provisions to allow the council to designate additional officers by ordinance, allow meeting minutes to be kept electronically, combines the duties of the town treasurer with the town manager or town finance director.
The council has been working most of this year individually and during numerous work sessions to update the charter. Many of the remaining changes are housekeeping or clerical in nature.
Councilman Hollis Tharpe supported the amendment, but didn't feel a strong need to change the town's elections to November.
“I truly believe that the May elections were fine for years and would have continued to be,” Tharpe said.
Councilman Bret Hrbek said he would have preferred odd years, but also supported the amendment.
Freshman Councilman Daryl Funk, who opposed the non-partisan provision, voted against the measure saying that he was “very concerned that it will not pass the General Assembly as put forward.”
Funk said he wasn't sure the town had the power to put that provision in the charter.
Funk said after the meeting that he feared all the hours put into the amendment would be “wasted” if the General Assembly failed to approve the amendment.
“The two goals seem to be increasing turnout and keeping the elections non-partisan, but we've done neither,” said Funk, who noted turnout for elections was better in odd years when supervisors and other county offices were up for election.
By moving to even years, Funk said the town elections will be right in the middle of presidential elections and “I don't see how that is going to be non-partisan at all.”