After months of sometimes fiery and personal debate, Warner Robins Council approved creating a city administrator in a contested vote.
Jacob Reynolds was at the meeting and explains why one group says the issue should have been up to the voters
Before Monday night's vote on the creation of a city administrator position, the Robins Regional Chamber presented a plea to Council.
“Voter opinions can be obtained through an advisory non-binding referendum held in conjunction with the city's general municipal election on November 7th, 2017,” CEO and President April Bragg said in the Council’s work session.
Bragg says they simply wanted to open the conversation to the community it affects. She also said the Chamber would have been willing to hold public education forums about the position before the November election.
“We really aren't taking a position on the position of city administrator, but more taking a position on civic engagement and involving the citizens and people that run businesses,” Bragg said.
But just a few hours later, in a 4 to 1 vote, the Council approved the creation of the position.
The ordinance explains many aspects of the administrator job, but leaves out details on salary.
It says the administrator would be chief administrative officer, personnel director, help with budget proposals, supervise purchasing, keep an eye on city finances, and to “implement all policies, programs, and procedures which have been established by the mayor and city council.”
The ordinance says the position would be appointed by mayor and council and would answer to mayor and council.
Councilman Chuck Shaheen voted in favor and says it provides stability.
“Since 2008, you've had Mayor Walker, Mayor Holmes, Mayor Havarilla, Mayor Shaheen, and Mayor Toms. You've had five mayors, Perry has had one city administrator in those 8 years,” Shaheen said.
He said the position allows the mayor and other city leaders to focus on big picture projects and the city’s progress, especially economic development.
“Your mayor still appoints your department heads, people still work at pleasure of mayor and council, but we need to have someone who carries out the vision,” Shaheen said after the meeting.
Councilman Mike Davis voted against and says this is an example of Council over-reaching.
“I think you got people that want to do roles that aren't their roles to do. And I think they're doing it and I think they're trying to do the mayor's job and not giving the mayor an opportunity to do his job,” Davis said after the meeting.
He was the one vote against, Councilman Clifford Holmes abstained. Davis said he had other questions as well.
“How we going to pay for it? I mean how many times have you heard hey we don't have the money? We can't do this. I just think there's a lot of questions,” Davis said.
Davis also questioned the legality of the move, saying he was not sure it was within Council authority to remove power from the mayor’s office.
Davis and Shaheen both said they would consider a referendum on the November ballot as a suggestion.
Councilman Tim Thomas said he would not do anything to help fund or fill the position until the new administration is in in 2018.
The ordinance says the position does not take effect until December 31st of this year.
The City Council also approved the first vote to change the city's fiscal reserve policy. The change makes it Warner Robins law to always have four months of reserve funds in the account at all times. The Council has to approve the ordinance a second time for it to take effect.