PICHER - The City of Picher will be asking voters to consider a change in the form of government, city officials said.

In the shadow of a federal buyout and a devastating tornado, the community has watched as a steady stream of residents pack their things - taking with them the community's store owners, emergency personnel and city officials.

It is the latter that has the city in a bind.

From a council of four members and a mayor, city government has dwindled to a three-member panel.

The city is asking its residents to approve a change from a city council form of government to a statutory town board of trustees.

Sam Freeman, former mayor, was forced from his home - and ultimately his hometown - on May 10, when a tornado destroyed his house. His absence left a vacancy in the Mayor's seat.

Remaining officials appointed Tim Reeves as Mayor Pro-Tem until an election can be held.

On July 15, Ward 2 council member Joann Freeland submitted her resignation, leaving two council members - Jerry Coach and Ted Vann.

Under current government, council members can appoint a qualified resident to fill the vacancy of unexpired terms. Unfortunately, with the number of residents leaving the community the criteria makes it difficult to find a qualified resident,

“Most of Ward 3 was wiped out during the tornado,” said city clerk Carolyn Elmore.

A change in the form of government to a board of trustees, according to Elmore, would eliminate help the governing process to move forward smoothly.

City officials say one of the benefits is that a board of trustees is not segregated into wards - any legal resident is qualified to hold a position.

Another advantage is that the mayor's position is eliminated. Instead of an elected Mayor, a majority vote of the trustees appoints a chairman.

If a change of government is not passed by the people, the city will have to call a special election in order to elect a mayor.

In the meantime, applications are being accepted to fill the Ward 2 vacancy. Interested citizens who have resided in Ward 2 for six months is asked to contact city hall during regular business hours.