Spear Re-elected, McGovern Joins Excelsior Springs City Council

Excelsior Springs, Mo. — The Excelsior Springs City Council gained a new member and welcomed back an incumbent during a special session on Friday, April 12th. John McGovern was sworn in for his first term, joining Stephen Spear, who began his second term. Both candidates ran unopposed for the two open seats on the council. McGovern, who was Excelsior Springs Police Chief for 35 years, filled the spot vacated by veteran council member Sonya Morgan, who stepped down after serving on the council for over 12 years. 

Immediately after their swearing-in, the council selected officers during the special session, with Mark Spohn retaining the mayoral position and Spear continuing as mayor pro tem. However, the titles hold limited weight in Excelsior Springs, which operates under a council-manager form of government.

In this system, the city manager is the chief executive, overseeing day-to-day operations and wielding significant administrative power. The council acts as a supervisory body, setting policy, approving budgets, and relying on city staff for implementation and recommendations. The mayor and mayor pro tem positions are largely ceremonial, lacking any direct executive authority.

John McGovern’s swearing-in revealed an interesting wrinkle in the council’s composition. His wife, Molly McGovern, currently holds the position of city manager. Missouri law permits spouses of elected officials to hold non-elective positions within the same government as long as a clear separation of duties is established to prevent potential conflicts of interest. 

In Excelsior Springs’ council-manager system, this separation is achieved by design. The city council, which includes John McGovern, sets policy and approves the budget for all departments, including the city manager’s office. However, the council does not directly supervise the city manager. That responsibility falls to the entire council as a body, and individual council members, including John McGovern, cannot give direct orders to the city manager. Additionally, Missouri ethics laws mandate disclosure of potential conflicts. In this case, both John McGovern and Molly McGovern would be required to recuse themselves from discussions or votes where their personal and professional interests could intersect.

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