A petition drive in Interlaken began this week to urge residents to change the borough’s form of government to a three-member Board of Commissioners.
The petition seeks to do away with the current mayor and six-member Borough Council and replace it with a three-member Board of Commissions, similar to the governments in nearby Deal, Loch Arbour, and Allenhurst.
Councilman Keith Miller said he has personally initiated the change-of-government drive because he would like to do away with the, sometimes petty, partisan politics and have a more stable governing body, each member with a four-year term.
“The last primary election was the straw that broke the back in terms of the letters, charges, and countercharges (being circulated at the time). Whether they were true or false, distortions or factual, they were presented to a point where it became extremely distasteful to me to see a community of this size split the way it split,” he said.
“In a town of 394 homes, I don’t think we need partisan politics with each side vying and positioning for a seat on council,” he said.
Miller, on his own initiative, last week sent a letter to Interlaken residents, at his own expense, asking support for a petition that will put the change of government before voters.
Under his proposal, the current seven-member governing body, with elections for seats being held every year, would become a non-partisan, three-member Board of Commissioners.
“Right now we have two governing body members elected every year and the campaigning goes on and on. It becomes a constant campaign and it never seems to stop. I support changing the government to three members, elected to four-year terms. It would give us four years of piece and quiet,” he said.
In order to change the form of government, 20 percent of residents who voted in the last general election would have to sign Miller’s petition, or more than 100.
If the petition is approved, Borough Clerk Lori Reibrich would have to schedule a referendum on the third Tuesday after the petition was formally approved.
If more than 150 registered voters approve the referendum, then an election for Board of Commission members would be held on the fifth Tuesday following the referendum and the governing body seated on the first Tuesday following their election.
Miller, who is now in his seventh year on the council, said that since a specific form of government is being presented to residents, there is no need to create a Charter Study Commission, which conducts a study and then recommends what type of government would best suit a municipality.
“If Deal, Loch Arbour and Allenhurst can run efficiently with three dedicated people, then I don’t believe we need six people and a mayor. I think it’s time for a change but this is purely my own decision,” he said.
And Miller said he believes there is bipartisan support in the community to change.
“I have discussed this with council members and residents. If I didn’t believe everybody is as fed up as I am, then I would have never done this. I believe there is bipartisan support for this,” he said.
“I am perfectly willing to stand by what voters decide. But I just think it’s time people are given a choice,” he said.