The speculation on who will be Findlay’s next mayor began, at least in private circles, as soon as the news broke this week that the current one, Lydia Mihalik, is taking a job in state government instead of seeking a third term.
While an election will be held in November for the office to determine who gets to serve four years beginning next January, Mihalik is leaving the city administration with a year left in her second term.
That means Council President Ron Monday will serve as acting mayor when Mihalik officially resigns Jan. 13 and will continue in that capacity until the Central Committee of the Hancock County Republican Party appoints someone to serve the remainder of Mihalik’s term.
The committee’s work must be completed within 45 days of Mihalik’s resignation. We suspect there could be many interested in the job.
The committee should get to work as soon as possible. The timeline will be tight, because anyone, including the appointee, who wants to run for the full term this year will have to meet a Feb. 6 filing deadline to qualify for the May primary. Someone who isn’t picked by the committee could still run for mayor if they file in time.
Because there will be great public interest in the appointment process, we would hope the committee undertakes the important task in a similar way to how it filled a vacant county commissioner seat after Phil Riegle resigned to become county prosecutor in 2016.
Even though the committee is not bound by Ohio’s open-meeting laws, it agreed to open the proceedings in the interest of transparency. Nearly 100 people attended a November 2016 meeting, where nine candidates who applied for the commissioners job were interviewed and asked questions by the committee.
After three votes, Tim Bechtol was selected to fill the vacancy and complete the remaining portion of Riegle’s term. Last year, Bechtol was elected to a full term in the commissioner’s office.
While there’s no legal requirement that the committee reveal how many people apply for the position or their names, or that the candidate interviews are conducted in public, it would be providing an important community service if it does all of the above.
Another reason the process should be transparent is because the appointee will represent the entire city, not just the Republican Party. Citizens should know as much as possible about the person selected, even if he or she chooses to serve only this year.
Such decisions should not come in “smoky rooms” and behind closed doors. The appointment is a matter of great importance, as the mayor oversees a budget of over $20 million.
The committee will be doing the community and the GOP a favor by granting as much access to the process as possible. The precedent was set in November 2016. We hope that high standard is followed over the next several months.