Decision on mayor to wait until January

By Monroe Roark
Times Correspondent

The next mayor of Stockbridge will not be chosen by the voters, nor by the current City Council.

That was the result of Monday night’s special called meeting, during which the council moved to table all appointments and vacancies until January, after three new council members are sworn in.

After Tim Thompson resigned as mayor during a Dec. 14 meeting, there was rampant speculation late last week when the special called meeting was announced. Many citizens who thought the current council, including three outgoing members, would be selecting the new mayor expressed their displeasure on social media. A number of people came to the meeting with plans to protest the decision.

But that was not necessary. As soon as Mayor Pro Tem Alphonso Thomas called the meeting to order and asked for acceptance of the agenda, Councilman Anthony Ford moved to strike the agenda item titled “Council Appointments and Vacancies” and table it until the first meeting in January with Ford, LaKeisha Gantt and the new council members. Gantt seconded the motion.

There was relatively little discussion on the matter. Councilwoman Regina Lewis Ward said that there is typically a process for appointments and that process has not yet taken place.

Gantt cited the section of the city charter that says the council, in absence of a mayor, “shall appoint a mayor.” She said that the charter does not allow for the council to call a special election to replace Thompson, who had slightly more than two years remaining on his term when he stepped down.

“Tonight we agreed we would table this issue for the new council to decide,” said Gantt, who like Ford is midway through her term.

Thomas and Ward were defeated at the polls in November and Robin Buschman chose not to run for re-election. Buschman did not attend the meeting and made it known in the community beforehand that she would not.

The outgoing council members are being succeeded by Elton Alexander, John Blount and Neat Robinson.

“I’ve heard citizens’ concerns for and against. I appreciate your concerns,” said Gantt. “My biggest concern is that we abide by the charter. I know some of you were in disagreement about changing the charter but this is one reason it needs to be addressed. We will be meeting with our council-elect and working for a better Stockbridge.”

Ford echoed Gantt’s comments, saying that the council’s intent is “to bring the city forward and have a smooth transition. We listen and we hear you. We want to make sure our new teammates are involved in this process.”

One scenario that got considerable traction on social media over the weekend had Gantt seeking the support of her peers for the mayor’s seat, and that if she were appointed mayor her council would be filled by Thomas despite his recent electoral defeat. That theory was quashed Monday night.

After the other three council members made their comments, Thomas pointed out that it is the current council’s duty to continue the business of the city until the time of transition.

“The newly elected council members have no obligation and no responsibility,” said Thomas. “It is the responsibility of this council who was elected by the citizens to carry out the business of this city until Dec. 31.”

Thomas gave a brief review of events in Stockbridge over the past few years, such as former mayor Lee Stuart’s resignation that led to the appointment of then-councilman Mark Alarcon as mayor and a separate appointment to fill his old seat. Thomas also referenced two instances in recent years in which council members died while in office and their seats were filled by appointment.

The mayor pro tem said he is not actively working toward any kind of new appointment, despite what has been said and written in recent days.

“I don’t have a dog in this fight,” said Thomas. “I trust in God. Whatever path He has for me, I am fine with it.”

The motion to table passed 3-0. The meeting was adjourned after less than 20 minutes, with some of the audience applauding after the gavel came down.