Stockbridge City Council
appoints mayor/pro tem

By Monroe Roark
Times Correspondent

The Stockbridge City Council used its first regular meeting of 2016 to appoint someone to chair its meetings in the absence of a mayor, and subsequent steps were taken with regard to how the next mayor will be chosen.

Council member Anthony Ford was voted by his peers to be mayor pro tem, a position previously held by Alphonso Thomas, who left office Dec. 31 after his November election defeat. LaKeisha Gantt, like Ford, is midway through a four-year term while the other three council members - Elton Alexander, John Blount and Neat Robinson - are new to the job this month after their recent election wins.

Ford will preside over council meetings for the next few months until a new mayor is selected. Tim Thompson resigned in the middle of a December council meeting at the halfway point of his term.

The council convened a special called meeting in late December - before Thomas, Robin Buschman and Regina Lewis Ward left office - amid rumblings that it would appoint a mayor for the next two years, citing the city charter’s current instructions in that regard. That possibility was met with resistance by many local citizens as well as incoming council members, and the vote was instead to delay a decision until the new members were seated.

A town hall meeting was convened Jan. 7 and after that discussion the council is seeking approval from the Georgia General Assembly to call a special election for the mayor’s seat.

“The citizens further requested a plurality of votes, rather than a majority vote, occur. This means that a candidate MUST receive 50 percent plus one in order to win,” according to a statement released by the city. “While this often results in the need for a run-off election, it was clear that a simple majority vote was not desired. These requests for change, along with other long-overdue changes to the city charter will be sent to the state legislature for consideration.”

Another decision stemming from the Jan. 11 meeting was to move toward privatization of the city’s sanitation services. Officials cited the state of the city’s sanitation equipment and costs associated with repairing trucks and other needed items, and this issue has been discussed in town hall meeting with residents.

“This option provides residents with added services (recycling), reduced impact during holidays, and will cost less than continuing to provide sanitation services, while freeing up staff to perform other much-needed services such as grass cutting and clean-up throughout the city,” according to the city statement. “There will be future town hall meetings on this topic to educate citizens and to prepare them for the transition.”