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The resignation of Bozeman Mayor Chris Mehl marks an unfortunate end to his tenure in city government. He brought skills to the office that will be hard to replace.

But resigning was the right thing to do for the overall welfare of the community. Had he resisted calls to resign and tried to stay on, it would have been an unnecessary distraction for city leaders during a coronavirus pandemic and a period of rapid growth that demand their undivided attention.

Mehl admitted he acted inappropriately when he repeatedly meddled in city government business and intimidated city staff with aggressive behavior. Hundred of documents made public revealed that his behavior contributed to former City Manager Andrea Surratt’s resignation after just two years in office.

In an email announcing he was stepping down, he wrote, “While I was working to be a proactive and prepared representative under the city charter, other commissioners do not see it that way.”

Mehl’s resignation prompted the immediate swearing in of Deputy Mayor Cyndy Andrus as the new mayor. Andrus completed a two-year term as mayor last year and is well prepared to assume the duties.

Bozeman’s city charter calls for a citizen commission – led by an elected mayor – to establish overarching policy and to be responsible for the hiring or firing of the city manager. But it does not call for the mayor or commissioners to meddle in the day-to-day business of running the city.

Specifically the charter states: “… the commission or its members shall deal with city officers and employees who are subject to the direction and supervision of the city manager solely through the city manager, and neither the commission nor its members shall give orders to any such officer or employee, either publicly or privately.”

Mehl’s resignation comes after a tumultuous period of controversy within the commission. Pervasive unrest within city staff led to the adoption of written standards of behavior for commissioners at a meeting late last year during which several other commissioners acknowledged they has stepped over the limits with their actions as spelled out in the charter, including attending meetings of city staff uninvited.

Mehl’s departure is an opportunity for the city commission to reboot and curb urges to get overly involved in the difficult business of managing a growing community.

And Mehl is commended for doing the right thing. He is wished the best in his future endeavors.

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Editorial Board

  • Mark Dobie, publisher
  • Nick Ehli, managing editor
  • Bill Wilke, opinion page editor
  • Richard Broome, community member
  • Renee Gavin, community member
  • Will Swearingen, community member
  • Angie Wasia, community member

To send feedback on editorials, write to citydesk@dailychronicle.com.