The city of Warner Robins had to completely open the Council Chambers Monday night to fit in all the people that wanted to comment on the way the City of Warner Robins operates.
“I think I've done the job very well, I think given the right to minister day to day operations like you elected me to do, I think we're fine. And with that I'll open up the podium to anyone who'd like to speak and we may be here till midnight,” Mayor Randy Toms told the room before opening the podium for public comment.
It was a packed Council Chamber as city leaders debated publicly about changing the City's style of government.
A draft resolution presented by councilman Keith Lauritsen would have asked voters to consider supporting a change from a mayoral system to a city manager style of government in a November referendum.
The resolution never made it on the Council’s agenda and the issue was never voted on.
Pastor Josh Kirvin spoke during the public comment session and said after the meeting he thinks the city needs change.
“Well, the fact of the matter is although we're doing well, we could be doing much better. And I believe you have to have a dedicated person who deals with the nuts and bolts of government,” Kirvin said.
Debate continued for roughly an hour as the public weighed in on creating a city administrator or city manager. One woman said creating the job of a city administrator was something that needed voter approval and she said the person would need to answer to the mayor’s office.
The issue had vocal support and criticism from members of the audience.
Changing to a city manager-led government would need approval from the state's general assembly and would lessen the mayor's authority.
Mayor Randy Toms said he does not need the help of a city manager.
“No, not really. Do I think there are some things that could be done through the city clerk position that would make it more efficient, more effective that would give me a little bit more time to do other things? I think so, I think there's some grit to that argument,” Toms said.
Toms said he would support changing the clerk's title to that of city administrator and giving the role more authority to keep things off his desk. But, he is strongly against changing to a city manager-led government.
Councilman Keith Lauritsen said he asked Jim Elliott, Warner Robins’ attorney, to write the resolution just to showcase one of the options available.
Lauritsen said this came to a head after city leaders had been discussing a potential change for weeks. He told WMAZ after Monday’s meeting that it was not a criticism of any public officials, but an issue dealing with the government’s efficiency.
Supporters of creating a city administrator, like Councilman Chuck Shaheen, said it would help run the government more officially and take responsibilities off the mayor’s desk. Shaheen said, during the session, his time as mayor showed him how demanding the job could be.
Lauritsen said he hoped people continued to come back to meetings and be involved in the conversation, he also said he expects the debate to continue.