Shirley Marchman made history for the city of Villa Rica July 1 when she was elected as the first African-American to hold the mayor’s position in the city’s 135-year history.
“It is an honor and a blessing to be the first African-American mayor of Villa Rica,” said Marchman, who represents the council’s Ward 1 which includes the Douglas County part of the city.
“I don’t take it lightly and I hope I can be an influence to others to love their city enough to want to make a difference,” she said.
Marchman was appointed to fill the spot left vacant when former mayor J. Collins resigned and won election to a vacant seat in the Georgia House of Representatives.
Gov. Nathan Deal appointed former State Rep. Dusty Hightower to serve as a Superior Court judge in the Coweta Circuit, leaving his House District 68 position open. Collins won the seat in a special election.
Villa Rica’s charter did not allow Collins to serve as mayor of the city and run for the open state representative position, according to Marchman. Council members then elected Marchman to fill in as interim mayor until a special election Nov. 8.
Councilmember Leslie McPherson of Ward 3 praised Marchman for taking the job.
“She has spent many years in Villa Rica and knows the city and its history,” McPherson said. “She will also bring necessary stability to the position.”
Marchman was carrying on a family tradition of breaking racial barriers in the city.
Her father, Doyle McCain, was the first African-American resident to serve on the Villa Rica City Council. McCain served from 1979 until his death in 1986.
She said his work on the council piqued her curiosity about government. She was elected to the council in 1990 and held the position until 2004 when she stepped down to run for mayor. After losing the election she was elected again to the council in 2008 and has been a member ever since.
McPherson said the city’s charter that included the rules for how the council operates had to be changed for Marchman to move into the position of interim mayor.
The old charter said, sitting council members could not run for or serve as mayor even on an interim bases, she said.
McPherson also said she felt the previous charter was not adequate because it gave very little power to city council members, the mayor pro tem and the interim mayor.
Marchman said she will not be running for mayor in the special election because she feels she could better serve the Villa Rica community by remaining on city council. She said her council position enables her to make more of an impact in the city than the position of mayor.
“If I can be of any help to make changes that will benefit the city I will,” Marchman said.