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What’s behind possible Flowery Branch charter change
Mary Jones
Mary Jones

Flowery Branch is moving ahead with a special election to replace former Councilwoman Mary Jones, but its City Council also is looking at another way to address short-term vacancies such as the one created by Jones’ departure.

The council voted Thursday to give its final OK to holding a June 18 special election, but began discussing a resolution that would enable the council to fill a vacant seat that’s a year or less away from election.

Jones resigned from her Post 2 seat in late December. Her four-year term ends Dec. 31.

Ultimately, the council put off voting on the resolution until it could hash out some concerns, including one raised by Councilman Joe Anglin as to whether mayoral appointments could also be made.

Council members also discussed the incumbent “tag” an appointee would get if that person chose to run in the general election for the seat. Being listed as incumbent on the ballot could give that person a leg up on anyone choosing to run for the office, members said.

“Is there anything we can write in where that (appointee) … does not obtain incumbent status?” Councilwoman Amy Farah asked. “Can you leave that word off the ballot?”

“No,” City Attorney Angela Couch said. “That’s a state law.”

Anglin brought up Curtis Segars, who was appointed by Gainesville City Council to fill a short-term seat in 2013. Segars, who died in 2015, scoffed at the idea of running for election, saying after his appointment, “Running for any position means having to go and ask people for money, which I detest.”

“I can see where quickly getting someone in … could help facilitate things,” Anglin said.

Giving the council the power to appoint council members would require a charter change, and that would need to go through the state legislature, which began its 2019 session on Monday, Jan. 14, by way of local lawmakers.

Mayor MIke Miller said that the local delegation traditionally only pushes forward measures that have been unanimously approved by local government bodies.

The charter change would take effect as soon as the law is signed by Gov. Brian Kemp, possibly in April or May, City Manager Bill Andrew told the council.

Special election qualifying for the Post 2 seat is set for April 15-17, taking place at City Hall, 5410 W. Pine St.

“In terms of timeline, it’s just having (the charter change) in place … if no (one) were to run for the special election?” Farah asked Andrew. “We would then be in a place where we could appoint someone until November, correct?”

“Yes, ma’am,” said Andrew, who noted that for the special election, “we’ve only had two inquiries and both of (the residents) lived outside the city.”