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Gainesville voters may choose mayor by 2013
Rep. Carl Rogers pushing bill for elected city leader
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More than two years after city residents voted to have a specially elected mayor, it might become reality.

Rep. Carl Rogers is getting ready to file a bill in the General Assembly this week that would add a sixth person to the Gainesville City Council.

That sixth person would be a specially elected mayor. If the bill makes it into law, Gainesville voters could choose a mayor as early as 2013.

It's a change council members have been waiting on for quite some time.

"I'm glad to finally (have a chance) to get that behind us," said Gainesville Mayor Danny Dunagan.

As mayor, Dunagan's role is largely a ceremonial one. He and the other four council members are elected citywide but must live in one of the city's five wards.

The title of mayor is rotated among council members every two years.

Rogers originally called for a referendum that surveyed voters' preference on the issue in 2009.

The referendum also queried whether voters wanted to directly choose who led the city's school board. Voters largely said no to that question.

Voters did, however, approve the mayoral question.

The referendum was nonbinding, meaning officials weren't required to act on the suggestion, but Rogers and city officials have been working on the change ever since.

Each year it has hit roadblocks.

"I've been working on this for three years ..." said Rogers. "Hopefully, we can get it through this year."

Until last week, local legislation required a unanimous vote by the state senators and representatives from the county. Last year, Rogers couldn't get that unanimous approval.

Former Rep. James Mills, R-Chestnut Mountain, was the lone holdout. Mills opposed a fee that the city's utilities department charged out-of-city customers for water service, and said he would not approve the charter change until the city got rid of the fee.

Members of the delegation have since set their own rules, which require only a majority of them to approve a local bill before it moves forward.

Mills' successor, Emory Dunahoo, said he's "pretty sure" he'll sign off on the new charter for Gainesville.

While he hasn't had a chance to read all of the proposed changes to Gainesville's charter, Dunahoo said he's OK with the change regarding an elected mayor.

"I think it's time maybe for the future of Gainesville to vote on the mayor," he said.

Rogers thinks he'll get the bill introduced this week. As of Monday, he was still working on his final draft.


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