Dobson takes mayor’s seat at Hannibal City Council following Hark resignation

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Mike Dobson will serve as Hannibal's mayor until a special election in November. - Photo by Megan Duncan

HANNIBAL, Mo. – James Hark submitted his resignation, effective immediately, as mayor of the City of Hannibal on Tuesday afternoon in a letter addressed and emailed to the Hannibal City Council, city manager and city clerk.

Hark told Muddy River News that growing obligations and a coming expansion at his full-time job will take away from his duties as the mayor.

“I can’t continue in good conscience to try to do the job people are expecting in this position,” he said. “We have very good councilmen and a great staff who are doing great things. I don’t want to hamper their abilities to succeed. They need someone who will be there.”

The Hark family has a long history in the Hannibal mayor seat. His father, Roy Hark, was the city’s longest serving mayor, elected in 2001 and serving for 15 years. He swore his son into the elected position in 2016. 

Mayor Pro tem Mike Dobson, who is also 2nd Ward Councilman, took his seat as acting mayor during Tuesday’s Hannibal City Council meeting. 

When asked about taking over the position for Hark, Dobson said he has big shoes to fill.

Fourth ward councilman Colin Welch said all council members will need to step up in Hark’s absence. 

“He is the person we have relied on to be the bearer of bad news,” he said. “He is always the face of bad news, and nobody wants to be that guy.”

Welch knows Hark’s leaving will bring added stress, but he understands Hark now is in a different point in his life. Welch said Hark has been part of city government for a long time, and the job is taxing. 

Hannibal City Council has been under fire during the last two years with demands from patrons and other council members for transparency in the city government and a better working relationship between council members.

Hark filed impeachment articles in January 2022 against Hannibal City Council member Stephan Franke, who was accused of grabbing Hannibal City Manager Lisa Peck and City Clerk Angel Zerbonia “in a non-consensual manner,” causing pain to the city manager. He cited Section 18.08(g) of the Hannibal City Charter that provides for immediate suspension of an official upon the filing of any impeachment charge.

Charges were dropped against Franke when Judge John Jackson granted his motion to dismiss on June 2.

“This can be an aggravating and tedious job,” Welch said. “You have to know when to walk away.”

Welch is optimistic about Dobson stepping into his new role and said everything should be business as usual. 

“Mike’s been doing this job longer than Mayor Hark and I both have been doing it,” he said. 

City Attorney James Lemon said Dobson will take over all mayoral duties and continue with his council duties until a special election can be held in November. Lemon said they are past the deadline to get on the August ballot. 

The elected mayor will serve for a year until the regular election — which would have been the end of Hark’s current term — takes place in April 2025.

Lemon said he only found out about Hark’s resignation a few hours before the council meeting began, and he is still reviewing how Dobson’s position as a councilman and pro tem mayor will work.

“With just a very cursory review, it would be he is still a councilman who is acting in capacity of mayor. I don’t see anything that says we will need a special election or to have someone cover his position, etc.,” Lemon said. “He will still be councilman for his ward who is temporarily sitting on behalf of the mayor.”

Lemon said because Hannibal has a city manager, the mayor position does not require day-to-day management but mostly signing documents and attending tourism events, which Dobson already attends by choice.

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