City officials learn basics of life in the spotlight

Posted

When newly elected city council members Mark Gotto, Doris Truhlar, Kathy Turley and CJ Whelan are sworn in on Jan. 6, they will have already received nearly 10 hours of formal training on how to conduct themselves in the public spotlight.

On the evenings of Dec. 16 and Dec. 17, city officials will hold an orientation for the new council members and “this year, the council orientation is going to be different than what we’ve done in previous years,” said Allison Wittern, public information and special events manager for the city.

At next month’s training, in addition to being issued their new City of Centennial laptops, business cards and email addresses, the four new councilors, according to Wittern, “will also have their first opportunity to sit in their seats on the council chamber dais and make motions and experience some of the things they’ll deal with at their first meeting.”

Wittern said the first session of orientation also will include a welcome and overview, a tour of the civic center building and answers to important legal questions.

The second night of orientation will feature a mock council session. “There will be an explanation of the public comment part of the council meeting,” Wittern explained. “We’ll address a lot of other key issues too. A mock land-use case will be on the agenda as well as a mock public hearing and review of a (simulated) open space funding agreement.”

Wittern said City Clerk Brenda Madison will play a key role in the orientation and Mayor Cathy Noon and the four other sitting council members are also expected to attend.

“For the orientation, we try to select topics that our new council members want to be familiar with sooner than later,” Wittern said. “It also will be a good opportunity for everyone to get together for the first time.”

On its website, the city includes a section for newly elected city officials titled: “So you just got elected to a municipal office, now what are you going to do?”

“In the heat of the campaign, you had a lot of dreams, may have made a few promises. Now it’s time to carry out the planks of your platform,” states the website primer. “It is each of you who must help in guiding the progress of this community for the next few years.”

Among the first suggestions the city offers to newly elected officials is to “proceed slowly, ask for help and know the rules.”

“Many people will come to you for favors and requests,” the guide states. “As an elected official representing the people, you should not feel obligated to satisfy individual wishes or demands.”

Among the other pieces of advice the City offers to new council members:

• Learn the Centennial Municipal Code and City Charter, copies of which each receives before taking office.

• Read and review minutes from previous city council meetings as well as previous city budgets.

• Get to know and be available to homeowners’ associations in your district.

• Review all staff reports and meeting packets prior to each council meeting. “Meetings flow better if everyone knows the topics and has read their materials,” the post-election guide advises.

The guide also encourages decorum and advises new council members, when attending council meetings, to address each other using Mr. and Ms. or Councilmember and then by their last names.

“Strive for good will and a spirit of cooperation among the council members. This does not mean that votes must be unanimous or that debate should not take place. However, respect and courtesy present better to the public.”