Dally sworn in as mayor of Social Circle; redistricting map approved

Staff Correspondent

SOCIAL CIRCLE -- Hal Dally officially took over duties as mayor of Social Circle after an emotional swearing-in ceremony.

"I want to thank you," Dally told the standing room-only crowd gathered in the Community Room on Tuesday. "As mayor, I hope to make you proud and to conduct the city's business the way you want it done."

Municipal Court Judge Jeffrey Foster first administered the oath of office to newly elected City Council members Angela Porter and Steve Shelton.

He then turned to the audience and explained how he was appointed judge in August after former Municipal Court Judge Rebecca Dally stepped down in light of her husband's campaign for mayor.

"I know nothing is more important for her than family," Foster said.

He said he appointed her as pro tem Municipal Court judge so that she could administer the oath of office to her husband.

"Her term will expire upon the administration of the oath of office," Foster said.

Rebecca Dally then explained Hal Dally's father had been sworn in as mayor of Social Circle 60 years ago and thought it would be fitting if Hal Dally took the oath of office using his father's Bible, which was brought to him by his children.

"You are bad," an emotional Dally said.

After the new mayor and council were seated, the council reappointed Susan Roper to serve another year as city clerk and Joe Reitman as city attorney. City Councilman David Keener was elected as mayor pro tem.

In other news, the City Council unanimously approved new boundary lines for election districts. The council had considered six different versions of the new district map.

Social Circle, like most municipalities, was required to adjust district lines as a result of the 2010 U.S. Census. The lines are drawn so that they represent as close to 1,057 residents per council member district and so that black residents are not disenfranchised, as stipulated under the federal Voting Rights Act of 1964.

The city employed the Northeast Georgia Regional Commission to draw the new maps based on the Census figures, but council members had not been satisfied with the minority distribution reflected in the different versions.

In June, the City Council reviewed a fourth version of redrawn district lines, but the two black council members, Angela Porter and Traysa Price, were still not convinced minorities were sufficiently represented. Porter said it would be preferable if minorities constituted around 60 percent of two districts.

The council agreed at the time to have the NEGRC draft a fifth version of district lines. After reviewing that fifth version later in the summer, the City Council agreed it preferred the fourth option, but decided to wait to take further action until after the municipal elections in November.

During a meeting after the election, the City Council reconsidered Option 4; however, it was revealed that under this option, newly elected City Councilman Steve Shelton would get displaced from District 4 and would reside instead in District 2.

In December, then-Mayor Jim Burgess asked the NEGRC to rework Option 4 to slightly adjust the minority population in Districts 1 and 2, represented by Price and Porter, respectively, and to make sure Shelton's residence was in District 4.

Two public hearings were held on the new map, with two City Council meetings held during which the charter amendment for redistricting ordinances was read. The new map was formally adopted during Tuesday's meeting.

"I feel this is as good a plan as you're going to get," Reitman told the council.

Reitman said he will now turn the map and accompanying documents over to the U.S. Department of Justice for its approval.