STERLING – Third Ward Alderman Bob Conklin, who has missed more than half of Sterling’s City Council meetings over the last year, will not run for the seat in the April election.
Conklin, 62, was on the city’s Plan Commission for 2 years before deciding to run for the council in December 2015. He ran as a write-in candidate as the filing deadline was approaching and no one had filed to run in his ward.
Conklin began consistently missing meetings when he started a new job. Mayor Skip Lee, who leads the council, said it was hoped that a consistent work schedule could be worked out, but that hasn’t materialized.
“He keeps having his schedule changed,” Lee said. “He was back on a day shift for a while, but then they flipped him back to nights.”
Conklin continues to be paid the same as the other Sterling council members, which is $200 a month. Conklin said Tuesday he would not run again because of shift unpredictability at work, but he planned to stay on the council until his term runs out April 30.
“I will attend all meetings I am able to and keep addressing the residents’ questions and concerns in my ward and others,” Conklin said via text message.
When asked if he would be able to attend any more meetings, Conklin said he was told to continue doing what he’s been doing.
The mayor said that conversation was held a long time ago when he thought Conklin would soon be going back to a daytime work schedule.
“That was said when we were working on a 30- to 60-day window, but now that it’s been much longer, doing the same thing no longer applies,” Lee said.
Conklin has attended only four meetings this year – on March 19, April 2 and 16, and May 7.
There is nothing in city code that addresses meeting attendance for council members. Lee said he has been meaning to discuss the situation with Conklin, but hasn’t been able to connect with him.
“I haven’t physically showed up at his house, but I have tried to reach him,” Lee said. “If he’s not going to attend any more meetings, I’m going to ask him to resign, but he needs to make a decision.”
The mayor confirmed that Conklin has been checking in with City Manager Scott Shumard in an effort to keep up with what’s happening at meetings.
If Conklin does resign, it’s likely the mayor could make a quick appointment. Artist Mackenzie Hopping has taken out papers to run in the 3rd Ward.
“If he does resign, I would appoint her, and she could be here during the budget process and get some experience that would valuable if she wins the election,” Lee said.
While the mayor contends he hasn’t had phone calls from voters in the ward about the situation, other council members have been concerned.
“Bob kept saying he was coming back, but with all of the shift changes, this has gone on much longer than anyone thought it would,” 4th Ward Alderman Joe Martin said.
In addition to the lack of representation in the ward, with only six council members, the absence of one person can be limiting, Martin said.
“All of us are from different backgrounds, and this is a nonpartisan board with different views,” Martin said. “There is a lot of work to be done and we need everyone’s input.”
Martin, the city’s senior alderman, said he has spoken with Shumard about changing the way the council is paid.
“I have a big problem with paying people for meetings they don’t go to,” Martin said. “I’ve talked to the city manager about changing it so you get paid for each meeting you attend, but then there was a concern about creating an incentive to call more meetings.”
If Conklin had more than 2 years remaining on his term, the mayor would have been required to call a special election.