Newborn seeks to stagger terms for city council

NEWBORN - The town of Newborn is pursuing a charter amendment that would stagger terms of office for elected officials.

Currently, the mayor and all four council seats are up for election at the same time, leaving the possibility that the entire council could be replaced in one fell swoop, possibly with inexperienced members.

"We felt we needed it so everybody wouldn't come aboard new at one time," said Mayor J.W. Cummings.

The council has agreed to seek approval from the Georgia legislature for a charter amendment that would stagger terms so that elections would be held every two years, though members would still hold four-year terms.

All current council members are up for election in November 2009. If the amendment passes, two council members then will serve abbreviated two-year terms, ending in 2011, and afterward will serve the standard four-year terms.

The remaining two council members and the mayor will continue on with the current term schedule.

Town Attorney Joe Reitman will present the amendment to the Georgia legislature at the start of the 2009 session.

"It ensures that the town does not have the mayor and all council members roll off all at once," Reitman said of the changes. "It preserves institutional knowledge and facilitates smoother transitions. Most of my municipal clients have staggered terms. Coinciding terms for all council members and mayor are becoming increasingly rare, at least in my experience."

The Newton County Board of Commissioners, the municipalities of Covington, Oxford, Porterdale and Mansfield and the Newton County Board of Education all have staggered terms.

Crystal Tatum can be reached at crystal.tatum@newtoncitizen.com.