On second try, Westfield City Council OKs move to second-class city status

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The Westfield City Council on Monday unanimously approved an ordinance to elevate the city to second-class status, making it the fourth Hamilton County city to do so.

The council voted 7-0 to make Westfield a second-class city beginning Jan. 1, 2028.

The change in status means voters in 2027 will elect a city clerk and two additional city council members—one at-large and another representing a sixth district.

Under the plan, the city’s clerk-treasurer position will be eliminated and a newly established city controller will be recommended by the council and appointed by the mayor.

Westfield is eligible to move from third- to second-class city status because it crossed the population threshold of 35,000 that Indiana communities must have to be considered for second-class status.

The city had just more than 21,000 residents when Mayor Andy Cook took office in 2008. Today, Westfield’s population tops 54,000. The city’s growth during that time coincided with increased development, including construction of the Grand Park Sports Campus, which opened in 2014.

Incoming Mayor Scott Willis and a completely new city council will be tasked with preparing Westfield’s transition to second-class status. Willis is a current member of the Westfield City Council.

The vote on Monday was the second time the Westfield City Council considered elevating the city to second-class status.

The council voted 6-1 in June 2022 to reject a proposed ordinance to make Westfield a second-class city. Willis, who will become Westfield’s next mayor on Jan. 1, was the only councilor to vote in favor of the move.

At the time, some council members balked at giving Cook the ability to appoint a city controller if ran for reelection. Cook ultimately decided to retire after serving four terms in office.

Westfield would have become a second-class city at the beginning of 2024 had the city council passed the ordinance last year.

A report into Westfield’s finances published in 2021 by Indianapolis-based consultant Baker Tilly Municipal Advisors LLC recommended the city move to second-class status.

Indianapolis is the state’s only first-class city, which requires a population of 500,000 or more. More than two-dozen cities in the state have second-class status, including three other Hamilton County cities that made the move in recent years due to population growth.

Fishers changed from a town to a second-class city on Jan. 1, 2015, after voters elected the city’s first mayor and nine-member city council in the 2014 election.

The Noblesville City Council voted in 2013 to upgrade to a second-class city, and residents elected the city’s first nine-member council and clerk in 2015. It officially took on second-class status on Jan. 1, 2016.

The Carmel City Council in 2016 voted to elevate the city to second-class status after previous councils twice rebuffed Mayor Jim Brainard’s proposals to upgrade the community. Voters elected a city clerk and two additional council members in 2019.

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5 thoughts on “On second try, Westfield City Council OKs move to second-class city status

  1. I am really not familiar with the differences between a 2nd and 3rd class city but does it strike anyone as odd that it takes a population of 35,000 to jump to a 2nd class city but the next jump in class is with a population of 500,000 to become a 1st class city. That is quite the population gap between 2nd and 1st. Just curious as to why the huge gap as it seems like the needs would be fundamentally different for Fort Wayne, Evansville, South Bend, Gary, Bloomington…etc. than for Westfield or Indy. Thoughts?!

    1. I believe when Fort Wayne hit the needed population to hit first class several years back, the legislature raised the population minimum to keep Indianapolis as the only one.

      But yeah I definitely think Bloomington, Evansville, Columbus, and South Bend, communities that aren’t just suburbs of another metro but their own core city, probably shouldn’t be lumped into the same bucket as what are basically suburban communities.

  2. No skin in the game, but its crazy that the current council can decide what the next council and Mayor must do. Maybe the new Mayor doesn’t feel the city is ready. Or the new council knows the city isn’t ready.

    1. It is odd, but FWIW the “new” mayor is currently on the council and he’s the only one to have voted for this BEFORE knowing he would be mayor. The city was ready last year, but personal & professional drama between the mayor and some of the current/outgoing council caused the delay. I just don’t understand why we have to wait until 2028.

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