By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Gainesville council urges new charter for elected mayor
Measure could be introduced in legislature later this year
Placeholder Image

Gainesville City Council members are ready for a new city charter that calls for an elected mayor.

They passed a resolution Tuesday to ask Hall County’s state lawmakers to approve a charter revised in December 2009 to include an elected mayor and submit it for the legislature’s approval.

“We asked them to introduce this last year, but it didn’t happen and they ran out of time,” said Mayor Ruth Bruner. “So now we’re going back with another resolution for a new year, hoping to clean up our antiquated charter.”

A nonbinding referendum, introduced as a bill by Rep. Carl Rogers, R-Gainesville, in March 2009, asked voters whether Gainesville should have an elected mayor rather than a position that rotates every two years.

At the same time, Rogers introduced another bill for Gainesville’s school board chairman position to be elected. The bills were co-sponsored by the Hall County House delegation.

In November 2009, voters approved the mayoral referendum ballot question in a special election with 55 percent. Officials aren’t required to act on the suggestion, but City Council members want to see a change.

“The voters voted, and they want an elected mayor,” said Mayor Pro Tem Danny Dunagan. “It may have been a thin margin and low turnout, but the voters spoke, so let’s move this forward and put it behind us.”

When the referendum question passed, city staff drafted a new city charter that provided for the election, but the charter changes must also pass the state legislature.

Local legislation needs signatures from all state delegates, and former Sen. Lee Hawkins dropped out from the Senate to run for the 9th Congressional District seat, leaving the charter without a senator to help sponsor the bill.

Rogers said Tuesday he hopes to introduce the legislation by the end of this year’s session.

“I had to ask them to send another resolution, updating it from 2010 to 2011,” he said. “I also asked them to go ahead and do the legal ad. This is where we are at this point.”

In November 2010, Rogers said the change could take longer.

“Now we need to wait on reapportionment to see how the Census count is. We need to get the numbers, look at drawing lines and deal with the chartering of cities and counties,” he said. “I have not actually been in meetings to discuss what they want, not even to compare the old charter versus the new one. There are a lot of unknown issues to discuss.”

Council member Bob Hamrick was the sole vote against Tuesday’s resolution.

“If anything, since Rep. Rogers brought it up, he should be the one to introduce it and take the initiative, not put the burden on us,” Hamrick said. “And the way we do mayor is a satisfactory way that has worked for years. We don’t need a change.”