KETR

Piece of Mind: Princeton Mayor Now Lives Out of Town

Aug 5, 2020

By JOHN KANELIS

Princeton Mayor John-Mark Caldwell only thought he was resigning from the City Council after moving to Rockwall.

It turns out, according to the city's legal counsel, Caldwell is required to stay in office until after the next election, which occurs on Nov. 3. That's what the state requires, so Caldwell must remain in place, gavel in hand, running City Council meetings.

As the Princeton Herald reported: The law requiring that a public official continue serving until a replacement is installed was explained by City Attorney Clark McCoy at the ... July 27 regular city council meeting. "This is known as the holdover in office provision," McCoy said. He explained that the law is in place to assure continuity in office and that is the duty of the officeholder to continue serving.

This is even though when he adjourns the meetings, he goes home to the next county over.

I find that rather weird. But that's just me, I suppose. However, I won't argue with the learned municipal counsel over the validity of his ruling. 

Princeton does have a mayor pro tem, Councilman Steve Deffibaugh who, according to the statutes governing the city, can serve as mayor in the absence of the elected mayor. Princeton, I should point out, doesn't have a home-rule charter, and is governed under "general law" established by the state. It well might be that had Princeton been able to approve a charter -- which it has failed to do in four municipal elections -- there wouldn't be a problem.

Caldwell had tendered his resignation after it was revealed he had moved to Rockwall. He said when he submitted it that he intended to stay in office until his term expired in 2021, but then changed his mind. It now turns out that he has to stay for a little while longer anyway.

I am just one Princeton resident among the 12,000 or so who live here, but my thought is that the mayor pro tem ought to grab the gavel and run the council meetings, allowing the outgoing mayor to go on his way, establishing a new life in his new community. I should point out that Princeton's mayor doesn't vote on issues before the council, except to break a tie. It’s that general law thing that prohibits a mayoral vote.

The election is coming up. Filing for the seat is still open. One candidate has filed: former Princeton Independent School District Superintendent Philip Anthony. My hunch is that Anthony will be the overwhelming favorite to be elected to fill out the rest of Caldwell's mayoral term.

I am a bit baffled, though, as to why Caldwell just can't walk away as he intended to do when he turned in his resignation. 

John Kanelis, former editorial page editor for the Amarillo Globe-News and the Beaumont Enterprise, is also a former blogger for Panhandle PBS in Amarillo. He is now retired, but still writing. Kanelis can be contacted via Twitter @jkanelis, on Facebook, or his blog, www.highplainsblogger.com. Kanelis' blog for KETR, "Piece of Mind," presents his views, and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of KETR, its staff, or its members.

Kanelis lives in Princeton with his wife, Kathy.