Above, Altmann, Draheim, Beier (top, from left) and Meadows, Stephens, and Wicks (bottom, from left).
With an exceptional Sunday evening press release and just over twenty-four hours’ notice, the City has announced there will be a special meeting of East Lansing’s City Council tomorrow where the Council will choose who will serve as Mayor and Mayor Pro Tem for the next two years.
Council had had a meeting scheduled for this Tuesday, November 14, but cancelled it late last week without explanation. At 4:26 p.m. today, the City issued a special press release announcing that Ruth Beier and Aaron Stephens, who won the election last week, will be sworn in and that “The Mayor and Mayor Pro Tem will then be elected by the City Council.”
The members of City Council decide by majority election who will serve as Mayor and Mayor Pro Tem. The position of Mayor Pro Tem is similar to a deputy position, wherein the individual fills in if the Mayor is unavailable.
After the swearing-in, the five members of Council will be Erik Altmann, Ruth Beier, Shanna Draheim, Mark Meadows, and Aaron Stephens.
For the last two years, Mark Meadows has been serving as Mayor and Ruth Beier as Mayor Pro Tem. Meadows and Beier have been steadily voting as a block with Altmann, which makes it appear likely that Meadows, Altmann, and Beier will effectively decide who will be Mayor and who will be Mayor Pro Tem.
The Mayor (and Mayor Pro Tem, when filling in) typically takes on some significant responsibilities beyond those of other Council members. For example, this year, Council empowered the Mayor to decide at what point to enter the City into the Master Development Agreement with the developer of the Center City District project.
In East Lansing, being on City Council currently pays $8,272 per year and being Mayor pays $9,634 (total) per year.
Immediately after this afternoon’s announcement, ELi emailed the five people who will serve on Council and texted Beier and Meadows to ask why the meeting is taking place tomorrow with short notice after Tuesday’s meeting being cancelled. We also asked the five whether they are interested in serving as Mayor or Mayor Pro Tem.
Beier responded shortly thereafter, saying she is not sure why the meeting is being held on Monday. As for the position of Mayor Pro Tem, she wrote, "I hope that someone else will take over those duties. My day job is getting out of hand and I have class almost every night, so it would be good if someone with more time takes that over."
Stephens also responded to say that, as he has not yet been sworn in, he "wasn't part of the decision to schedule this meeting. My understanding is that the timing depends in part on the certification of election results." He added, "No, I'm not seeking to serve as Mayor or Mayor Pro Tem. I'm excited to learn, to get to work, and to serve our community on Council."
The City hast posted no agenda for tomorrow’s special meeting, so it is unclear whether there will be a chance for the public to weigh in before the election of Mayor and Mayor Pro Tem. Individuals wishing to write to Council can send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
According to the announcement, the meeting will take place tomorrow, November 13, in Courtroom 2 of City Hall, starting at 6 p.m. The oaths of office will be administered by City Clerk Marie Wicks.
Note: This article was amended to add Beier's and Stephens' responses shortly after publication. Meadows then answered at 7:45 p.m. to say, "I will be out of town Tuesday through Sunday because we had already cancelled the meeting for Tuesday night." He did not explain why the Tuesday meeting was cancelled. He said he thought a meeting tomorrow would allow Stephens "to have his family there and maybe go out to dinner with them afterward, just like I did the first time I was elected." He did not answer the question of whether he wishes to still be mayor.