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Gainesville voters may get to choose mayor, school board chairman

Gov. Perdue clears way for nonbinding referendum

POSTED: May 12, 2009 3:28 p.m.

Gov. Sonny Perdue has signed bills that will allow voters to have their say on an elected mayor and board of education chairman for the city of Gainesville.

The outcome of the referendum, which would be held during this year’s city elections are nonbinding, but could result in legislative changes for the two positions.

The bills were among a group of more than 100 signed into law today by Perdue.

Included in the group was a bill that changes the membership structure of the Gainesville Redevelopment Authority.

The bills about the mayor and board chairman were introduced by Rep. Carl Rogers, R-Gainesville, who said reaction to the legislation has been mostly good.

"I’ve heard more positive than I have negative," Rogers said. "I spoke with some of the council members (Tuesday) morning and told them we would get together after the vote."

Last month, Gainesville Mayor Pro Tem Ruth Bruner said that she is not opposed to an elected mayor, but she wants to make sure the city’s government system, which keeps the city manager as chief executive, stays intact. Councilman Danny Dunagan agreed.

In April, Gainesville school board Chairman David Syfan said he is concerned the referendum question could be too vague and a referendum may have unintended consequences. Syfan also said he believes if the referendum were passed, it may further muddy the waters of school board politics.

Currently, City Council members elect one of their own to serve as mayor, a mostly ceremonial role. The board of education also elects a chairman from among its membership, although in 2008, the board could not settle on a chairman and rotated the role among its members on a monthly basis.

If voters approve the referendums, the first election of a mayor and board chairman likely would take place in conjunction with the November 2010 general election.



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