JONESBORO — A proposal to rotate Jonesboro’s second most powerful position among city council members instead of annually voting to fill the job divided the town’s governing body Monday.
Mayor Pro Tem Wallace Norrington, sought the council’s blessing to ask Clayton County legislators for legislation that would change the city charter’s mandate for an annual vote to fill his position. Only the Georgia General Assembly has the authority to amend a city’s charter.
Instead of approving Norrington’s request, however, the council was deadlocked 3-3 and Mayor Joy Day cast the deciding vote against the proposal. She explained that rotating the position instead of letting it be voted on by the officials residents elected to make such decision could be an erosion of local control.
“Philosophically, we have too many votes being taken away from us nowadays and there’s not enough local control of government,” said Day. “We have so many mandates from the federal government and the state telling us what to do and how to do it … I still believe in local control of government and for that reason, I believe the people elected by the people should elect the mayor pro tem.”
Norrington has argued for the last month that rotating the mayor pro tem position among the six-member council would give each member a greater shot at filling the job. He has been on the city council for 22 years but this year marked the first time he’d been chosen to serve as mayor pro tem.
He has argued a couple of times over the last month that rotating the position will eliminate the possibility that council members will go around lobbying their colleagues to vote them into the spot year after year.
“Rotating this position is a more fair way of letting council members getting the experience of serving as mayor pro tem,” Norrington said.
In addition to Day’s tie-breaking vote, council members who opposed the proposal to rotate the position included Pat Sebo, Randy Segner and Bobby Wiggins.
One of the key issues was trying to figure out how to rotate the position among six council members who each serve four-year terms. Segner said that was the reason he wasn’t ready to support Norrington’s request.
“We need something appropriate that’s decided on by the council to take to the (Clayton County Legislative Delegation),” Segner said. “I don’t want to take something to them that’s half-filled out or a half-baked idea.”
Sebo suggested the council further discuss how a rotation would work during a retreat the elected body will take this spring. She said the council could then wait until the 2015 legislative session to bring the issue to the county’s delegation.
Reducing council’s size also suggested
But Sebo also casually mentioned a possibility that could be as divisive among council members as Norrington’s request turned out to be. At one point during the debate, she suggested the council, which is the largest in Clayton County despite Jonesboro being one of the smallest cities, could be reduced to four at-large seats.
Jonesboro and Forest Park are the only Clayton County cities that do not have a four-member council. Forest Park has a five-member council.
However, Sebo said after the meeting that she did not mean that as a serious proposal even though she said she believes its a step the city should take. Her comment did not generate much discussion among council members.
“I was not proposing it,” Sebo said. “I was just saying if there was something (to take to the legislature), I would rather look at changing the number of council members.”
Norrington said reducing the number of council seats should only be looked at, however, if rotating the mayor pro tem position among six members doesn’t work out.
“If the six doesn’t work out, then you go to four, but I don’t see no reason why six won’t work,” said Norrington. “It might take a little work because of the numbers, but it will eventually go around to all of us and that’s all I’m asking the council to do. Do you want it to stay with one or two people people, or do you want to rotate it around?”