Cottage City officials and residents are looking to end an 89-year tradition: the city commission form of government.
During a July 2 work session, Commissioner Richard Cote (Ward 1) suggested switching to a mayor-council structure “to give the town a better sense of leadership.”
Currently, the government is made up of five commissioners, who each have equal say on government matters. Changing the structure would create a mayor’s position that would serve as the council’s leader. Additionally, Cote said it could require adding a town administrator’s position that would handle day-to-day functions.
“I just want to put it out to the public to try and get a feel from the constituents, and how they feel about changing the government we have here in Cottage City,” Cote said.
Cote’s suggestion garnered support from commissioners and residents.
Donna Hayes, who has lived in Cottage City for 35 years, said a change in government structure is overdue.
“We’re the last dinosaur,” she said.
Former commissioner Demetrius Givens said the town would benefit by moving away from the city commission government.
“No one is really held accountable because there’s no one person who stands out to take leadership,” Givens said.
Currently, commissioners from Wards 2, 3 and 4 face re-elections in even-numbered years while commissioners in Ward 1 and an at-large seat face re-elections in even-numbered years. In a mayor-council setup, council members would face re-election in the same year.
Hayes said the frequent turnover within the commission has led to ineffective governing.
“Almost every year, you have a completely new commission,” Hayes said. “They can’t work together and don’t work together, and should they try, all they do is get beaten over the head.”
Cottage City and Upper Marlboro are the only two Prince George’s County municipalities without a mayor.
Upper Marlboro has three commissioners who face re-election every two years, according to David Williams, Upper Marlboro’s town clerk.
One of the three commissioners acts as a “strong mayor,” which Williams said serves the purpose of a mayor.
“As it is here, we’re less than a half-square mile, the three-commissioner system is sufficient,” Williams said.
Several municipalities moved away from the city commission form of government over the last 50 years, according to Jim Peck, director of research and information management for the Maryland Municipal League. As municipality governments have expanded, Peck said that they have had less of a need for their elected officials to take on administrative functions.
According to Givens, Cottage City has had a city commission government since its 1924 incorporation.