Clermont is moving forward on proposed changes to the North Hall County city’s charter that would divide the town into four voting wards.
Mayor James Nix said he hopes the council will pass a resolution at its next meeting that would send the map to the state legislature through Rep. Lee Hawkins, R-Gainesville, whose district includes Clermont.
“I think that the wards we’ve drawn up and everything are set to go,” Nix said to council.
The state legislature must approve the voting ward map before it can take effect.
The move to establish voting wards based on a relatively even split of the population comes not in response to a current problem, but rather one that could happen.
Nix has said officials are trying to avoid a scenario where all council members are elected from a single neighborhood or subdivision.
Currently, council members are elected by the entirety of the town, a practice that won’t change.
Instead, four of the five council members will have to live in a specific voting ward, while one council member and the mayor will be elected at-large and can live anywhere in the town.
The proposed voting ward map was drawn based on 2010 U.S. Census figures and splits Clermont’s approximately 875 residents into four districts.
Other demographic breakdowns, such as race and ethnicity, or education and income levels, were not part of the formula.
“With such a small minority population that we have, we don’t have a minority ward, like some cities end up with,” Nix said.
Eric Thomas, who, as the lone qualifier in a special election this year, is set to replace former Councilwoman Debra Armour, questioned the changes.
“Hall County runs with four (commissioners) and a chairperson,” he said, referring to the county’s system of having no at-large commissioner.
“One of the points that we brought up was if you have four (council members), the frequency of the mayor voting would go up because there would more chances for a tie,” Councilwoman Kristi Crumpton said.
“As I said, I’m outnumbered,” Thomas said.
Once approved, the new wards and map would be fully in place by January 2018. The legislature’s 2015 session starts in January.
The next meeting is set for 7 p.m. Nov. 13 at the Chattahoochee Center, 639 Main St.