Hannibal City Council approves special election for new mayor, approves city employees to map ward boundaries

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Hannibal Mayor Pro Tem Mike Dobson and City Manager Lisa Peck at Hannibal City Council on Tuesday night. Photo by Megan Duncan

HANNIBAL, Mo. — The race for a new Hannibal mayor will begin next month.

On Tuesday night, Hannibal City Council approved a special election to take place on Nov. 7. Candidates can file petitions on July 11 through Aug. 1.

The person elected will finish the former Mayor James Hark’s term which runs through April 25.

Hark resigned on June 6, citing his reason to be expanding work duties at a local towing company to hinder his ability to serve as Hannibal’s mayor. His decision came on the same day the council voted unanimously not to reappoint former City Clerk Angel Zerbonia to the position following an investigation regarding her participation in a hostile work environment. 

Hark became the Hannibal mayor in 2016, replacing his father former Mayor Roy Hark, who was in office for 15 years.

Mayor Pro Tem Mike Dobson said he is likely to throw his hat into the race.

“I will have to see how this month goes,” he said.

Deputy City Clerk Melissa Cogdal said the procedure is to accept internal candidates before opening the position to the public.

The Hannibal City Council also voted to adjust the ward map. 

Third Ward Councilman Stephan Franke and 4th Ward Councilman Charlie Phillips proposed adjustments to the map after Franke requested a copy of a previous unapproved map drawn up in 2021. The map redistricted both Franke and First Ward Councilman Darrell McCoy out of their wards. 

The effort to redistrict the ward map began in December 2021 when city council approved for City Manager Lisa Peck to put together a citizen committee to assess boundaries. The committee was never formed.

Peck commissioned a third party IT professional, Matt Sorenson, to draw up a map in November 2021 but the process was not completed.

Wards are updated about every ten years. The Hannibal wards were last updated Dec. 6, 2011, putting the city about 18 months behind on the usual cycle.

Franke and Phillips proposed leaving out the citizen committee, and instead directing city staff to work with the IT professional to redraw maps, “based on a slightly tweaked version of the guidelines we first approved.”

They asked to restart the mapping because the mapping guidelines were not followed.

The guidelines and goals for the new map were outlined in a memo from Peck to City Council dated Nov. 18, 2021. The committee was to handle ward boundaries in keeping with these goals.

  • 1-person, 1-vote; no more than 10% variance between smallest and largest wards. 
  • The shape of a Ward is largely irrelevant, equal population distribution is the goal. 
  • Fully conscious of respecting residents’ incumbent officials. 
  • Try to maintain communities-of-interest in the ward. For instance, try to avoid stranding cul-de-sacs into a separate ward. 
  • Try to take the simplest approach and preserve the current ward map as closely as possible. 
  • Since all wards do not lie adjacent to one another, population adjustments between certain wards can be complex. For example, a ward over-populated by 300 people cannot necessarily shift territory to an under-populated ward if the two wards are not adjacent. Thus, the simpler the solution, the better. 
  • Finally, MML literature cautions against diluting predominantly minority neighborhoods by unnecessarily splitting ward boundaries within them. This is particularly necessary to watch for should wholesale restricting occur.

City Manager Lisa Peck said the Hannibal Board of Public Works has handled ward maps since 2010.

Peck explained the guidelines were not given to HBPW or the IT professional because the map was to show boundaries with equal distribution of residents. 

Peck said she made no attempt to influence the map in any way, pointing out it was drawn up by an outside party. Peck indicated the map was a draft for the citizen committee to begin work with.

“A clean map drawn by an outside party, which simply redistributed its population equally, is a fair starting point,” she said.

The council approved the proposal for the city to complete the map in a 4-2 vote, with the goal to finish before the special election.

Dobson and McCoy voted against the proposal. Both agreed the wards need to be remapped but would like to see a citizen’s committee formed.

City Attorney James Lemon was concerned a citizen’s committee would lengthen the process. He believed changing polling locations so close to the special election could cause voters confusion.

The maps are to be finished before the Nov. 7 election. 

In other business:

  • Street closures were approved for the Steampunk festival in September.
  • Paul Trenhaile, finance director at the Hannibal Board of Public Works, went over the 2023 HPBW 2023 budget, outlining expenses, employee wages and average utility usage.
  • Hannibal Police Chief Jacob Nacke was unanimously approved for Firearms and Bid Adjustments for $28,459.96, and the purchase of weapon lights for $7,004.04

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