JOHNSTOWN, Pa. – Johnstown’s city manager will, in all likelihood, no longer be required to live within the city, based upon the results of a referendum on Tuesday.
Voters were asked: “Shall Section 601(a) of the City of Johnstown Home Rule Charter be amended to allow City Council to determine by Ordinance whether to require the City Manager to become a resident of the City?”
The ballot question passed with an approximately 60% yes vote, according to unofficial results posted by the Cambria County Election Office.
That means City Council will now be permitted to change the current law that states the manager must live in Johnstown.
“If the voters felt that this was the need to do, then of course we will do what the voters want us to do,” City Councilwoman Marie Mock said. “That’s the way it should be. The voters are in control. Let them control the situation.”
Laura Huchel, who was elected to council on Tuesday, opposed the referendum, but after its passage said, “The people have spoken, and it certainly does free up our ability to make broader decisions in hiring. I think it’s still important that obviously we’ll continue to prefer a candidate who lives in the city. But that added flexibility I’m sure will help us pick the best person for the job.”
Members of council and the administration who supported the referendum contended that the residency requirement has been a hindrance in attracting and retaining qualified city managers. Johnstown has had nine full-time or acting city managers since 2014.
Taxpayer money was used to send out “Paid for by the City of Johnstown” flyers and rent billboard space to explicitly endorse a “yes” vote, a message that also appeared on the municipality’s public website.
Official results for six other referendum questions, all regarding procedures at council meetings and legal matters, were not available as of press time.