The City of St. Marys is one of the oldest cities in western Ohio. It is located at the headwaters of the St. Marys River and, in the early years, was also known as Girty's Town. It is the site of a fort erected by General Wayne during his campaign against the Indians in 1794 and, during the War in 1812, General William Henry Harrison (later President Harrison) erected Fort Barbee at this location as a supply post.
Subsequent to the treaties of St. Marys, which were signed in September/October, 1818, this area became available for settlement. The initial plat of city lots was filed in 1823, which has been recognized as the founding date of the city. City government dates from 1837 when the Ohio General Assembly incorporated the town of St. Marys. At the time the state was in the process of constructing the extension of the canal later known as the Miami and Erie Canal.
St. Marys operates under the statutory form of government. The Ohio Constitution grants Ohio municipalities home rule and some cities have enacted city charters. St. Marys has not enacted a city charter and therefore operates under the form of government as set forth in Title 7 of the Ohio Revised Code. This form of government provides for a council consisting of seven persons. Three members of council are elected at large and four are elected as ward councilmen representing specific areas of the city.
The voters also elect a Mayor, a President of Council, a Law Director, an Auditor and a Treasurer. Members of council and the president of council serve two year terms. All other elected city officials serve four year terms. Municipal elections are held in odd number years.
Under the statutory form of government, the Mayor has the power to appoint a Director of Public Service and Safety who is the chief administrator of the city. Department heads, including the Chief of Police, the Fire Chief, and Directors of the different utilities, all report to the Director of Public Service and Safety who serves at the pleasure of the mayor. The Auditor of the city essentially operates as the chief financial officer of the city and is responsible for paying bills and maintaining the different city accounts or funds. The Treasurer is in charge of balancing various checking accounts of the city.
The City of St. Marys operates four enterprise funds which relate to specific utility operations. The city operates its own electric system, water system, wastewater and refuse departments. The city also has an extensive park system which includes a swimming pool and miniature golf course.
Council meets bimonthly on the second and fourth Mondays of every month. The meetings start at 6:30 pm and are open to the public. All legislation and appropriations must be passed by Council and approved by the Mayor. The Mayor has veto power and council has the power to override a veto.
The voters of St. Marys have an option of establishing a charter. This has been considered by the voters on at least two occasions, but St. Marys has never adopted a charter form of government.