City council to decide on future of District 2 seat

Published 5:33 pm Tuesday, January 3, 2017

By Powell Cobb

Managing Editor

With his passing on Saturday, Bainbridge City Councilman Joe Sweet’s seat on the council is left vacant, and City Council will have to decide whether to leave the seat empty or hold a special election to fill it.

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The term for Sweet’s District 2 seat is up in November. Between now and then, there are three dates mandated by the Georgia Secretary of State that a special election can be held: March 21, June 20 and Sept. 19.

Georgia Code calls for a 29-day span between calling for an election and holding an election, so Bainbridge has time to fill the seat by the first date.

If that’s even what City Council chooses to do. The law does not require the seat to be filled, and Bainbridge could theoretically ride out a 5-person city council until the November election.

“We don’t have a provision in our charter that we have to appoint somebody to that seat. We don’t require anything other than a majority of a quorum,” City Manager Chris Hobby said. “As long as they had the votes there, they can still conduct business.”

Hobby said having a seat vacant on city council for 11 months wouldn’t likely hinder government performance.

“But then, there are six council members for a reason,” Hobby added, “so the council will have to weigh that.”

Special elections are held and operated the same as general elections, and candidates must qualify in the same manner as well.

According to Carol Heard, chief elections official for Decatur County Board of Elections, the Decatur County Board of Education has a special election occurring in March. If Bainbridge decides to announce an election for the March 21 date, the city council seat will be added to that ticket. Early voting times would apply. However, if the election is chosen for July 20 or Sept. 19, only the precincts for District 2 would be able to vote, namely the Fairgrounds, the Coliseum, parts of West Bainbridge and a small portion of Mt. Pleasant.

Bainbridge’s charter is unique in that is does not have a provision to appoint a person to fill the seat.

Bainbridge Mayor Edward Reynolds said it was too early to make any decision on filling the seat, but City Council will consider all options in making a decision.