FLOWERY BRANCH – Members of the Flowery Branch City Council decided to table a resolution at their meeting Thursday evening that affects the way the city deals with council vacancies when council members are unable to complete their entire term in office.
City leaders feel they need more time formulating the language of the Resolution changing the city’s charter because changing a city’s charter is something only the Georgia General Assembly is empowered to do; and since the General Assembly convened earlier this week and only meets for 40 legislative days total, getting the Resolution to the capitol is time-sensitive.
Last month Councilwoman Mary Jones announced her decision to step down from the council on December 31st citing health issues; seven month ago Councilman Fred Richards passed away at home in his sleep. That’s two vacancies for the small south Hall County municipality in six months.
Since then Leslie Jarchow won the job of filling out the remainder of Richard’s term representing Post 3 after a Special Election held simultaneous with the November General Election. In June a Special Election will be held to fill Jones’ vacant Post 2 seat, but whoever wins that seat will only serve the remainder of Jones’ term, which is set to expire later this year.
They will then need to run again in November if they wish to continue serving. That would be two elections – supposing no run-offs – in five months.
Such a scenario is having an effect. City Manager Bill Andrew told council members, “There may be some hesitation for candidates to run for office...we’ve only had two inquiries and both of them lived outside of the city.”
What may sound like an unusual number of Special Elections is even more so when you factor in that two individuals already on the city council, Joe Anglin and Chris Mundy, both took office as the result of previous Special Elections. So it’s easy to see why the city wants to find another way of dealing with unfulfilled terms.
Special Elections cost money: both for candidates and their campaigns, and for the city. Andrew said the city spends $1825 to host a Special Election, an amount which can double if a run-off is needed; candidates could spend much more depending upon the number of contenders vying for the position and the closeness of the race.
Something needs to be done, according to city leaders, hence the Resolution.
Andrew outlined the intent of the resolution, saying, “Some charters allow the cities to have the mayor and council be able to appoint an individual to fill the unexpired term.”
But after council members asked several questions and expressed concerns over fine points in the Resolution it was decided to table the measure until the next city council meeting on February 7th and allow city staff to work on the Resolution’s language.
Andrew said after the meeting that once the Resolution is approved by the city council State Representative Emory Dunahoo would be asked to introduce the measure at the state capitol, and if the resolution passes it would become effective as soon as the Governor signs it, which Andrew said should be in April or May.
Andrew also took time after the meeting to explain that under Georgia law cities are a creation of the legislature, counties are not. “Cities are what they call ‘A Creature of the State’, a county is a part of the state,” Andrew said.
“A county is literally in the constitution of the state but we’re (cities) created through legislation,” Andrew continued.
According to the state’s website Georgia’s 159 counties created by the state constitution contain 535 cities, all created/chartered by the state legislature.