Hartford’s voters have approved a charter change that will eliminate the council-manager form of government in favor of a strong mayor.

Hartford’s first strong mayor will be elected in November 2003 to a four-year term with an annual salary of $125,000.

“We will have a results-oriented government,” Mayor Eddie A. Perez said Tuesday night. “The campaign starts tomorrow, when I wake up.”

Unofficial results showed the charter revisions passing by wide margins in every district. The vote for strong mayor appeared tightest in Blue Hills and Southwest, two middle-class enclaves at opposite ends of the city. But even there, the new charter was approved by a ratio of about 2-to-1. The heart of the West End approved it by an 8-1 ratio.

“The winners are the voters of Hartford. They have said, `Yes, this is the way to go,”‘ Perez said.

Backers of the charter revision said city hall had become so paralyzed under the council-manager government that traditional foes of a charter change, including big business, fell in line behind creating a strong mayor.

“It reflects a consensus that was a long time developing, that the form of government we had for 55 years hasn’t worked for Hartford,” said Allan B. Taylor, chairman of the charter revision commission.

The revised charter also creates a nine-member school board in December 2005, with four elected members and five to be appointed by the next mayor.

As a check on the mayor’s power, the new charter will create a three-member Internal Audit Commission with the power to examine “all matters relating to the integrity, efficiency and efficacy of the government of the city, including the Board of Education.”

–Associated Press