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Gilmer asks voters to OK sixth City Council member

By Richard Yeakley
Feb. 26, 2013 at 11 p.m.

GILMER - Gilmer voters will decide in May whether to expand their City Council by adding a second at-large councilman.

The amendment to the city's charter was proposed by the Home Rule Charter Commission to allow the mayor a vote in more city decisions, commission members said.

"There would be two council people at-large and then the mayor under this new charter," said Gilmer Mayor R.D. Cross. "I have cast very few votes in my time as mayor even though I have always been ready to."

Gilmer's charter states the mayor may only vote to break a tie, which is a rare occurrence with five council members.

The commission, which meets according to Gilmer's city charter every five years to review the charter, submitted five proposed changes, including the call for an additional council member.

Most of the changes are cosmetic, aimed at keeping the document current without changing the city substantially, said Ruth Whiteside who has served on the commission twice.

"There was no arguments about these changes, and I would vote for each of them," she said.

Whiteside said the new sixth council member, who would be elected every odd year along with the mayor and District 2 and District 3 council members, was purely to allow the mayor to vote while still avoiding most ties.

The city has four district council members, one at-large-council member and the mayor.

Tim Marshall, another member of the commission, said the move would make the mayor a more powerful figure in the city.

Cross said he had no doubt Gilmer residents would step forward to run for the new position.

"I think it is a good idea; you give more people an opportunity to serve," he said. "I think someone will."

Since the position would not have been filled this May, a councilman would be appointed to serve during the 2013-14 year. A special election for a one-year term would then be held in May 2014 to fill the at-large position, City Secretary Kathy Hoover said.

In 2015, the at-large council position would be filled along with a mayoral election and the election of councilmen from District 2 and District 3, Hoover said.

Elections are set May 11.



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