A public hearing Monday on proposed charter amendment to extend the term of the Havre de Grace mayor from two years to three saw just two residents comment — one person for and one person speaking against it.

Kirk Smith, who ran for City Council this spring and in 2018, spoke in favor of Charter Amendment Resolution 284. The charter amendment, which must be approved by the city’s voters, would apply to the next mayoral election in 2021.


Smith has not yet won a seat on the council, but sits on the city’s Tree Commission and has been president of the Havre de Grace Green Team environmental organization. He said he supports extending the mayor’s term for three reasons: the mayor’s tenure would line up with the contracted three-year terms of department heads who report to the mayor; the mayor has enough time to establish their own budget and govern; any member of the six-person council can run against the mayor and not risk losing their seat.

Council members’ two-year terms are currently staggered, and half of the body runs one year — along with the mayor — and the second half of the council runs the next year.

Smith said he thinks elected council members “are the prime choices to actually campaign against a mayor.”

“Their agenda [for city government] needs to be pushed forward also,” he added.

Smith said a three-year term for department heads is better than two years, “based on the learning curves and the cost of getting talented people” to work in Havre de Grace.

The mayor, as head of the city’s executive branch, starts a two-year term operating off of the budget crafted by their predecessor, which might not line up with the current mayor’s views if he or she is new to the position. Once the current mayor crafts their own budget and gets it approved by council, it is time to start campaigning for another term, Smith noted.

“I would like the mayor to be able to be elected and then to govern his first tour,” Smith said.

Joe Kochenderfer, a former councilman, was the second and final speaker Monday. He spoke against the charter amendment when it was introduced in September, and he reiterated those views at the public hearing.

“I feel the present system has worked reasonably well for quite some time,” he said Monday.

Kochenderfer did suggest, should voters approve extending the mayor’s term, that officials consider extending council members’ terms to three years, too.

“Council should not have an inferiority complex or sell itself short,” Kochenderfer said, noting that the body “has the obligation to keep a rein on the executive side of government.”

He said council members could run for mayor and not risk losing their seat, should mayor and council all have three-year terms.

“My opinion is, basically to leave things as they are in the present charter,” Kochenderfer concluded.