MARIETTA — The Marietta City Council shot down Mayor Steve Tumlin’s proposal for the city’s elected leaders to serve on alternating election cycles during Wednesday night’s meeting.
Currently, Marietta’s mayor and seven-member council are elected at the same time and start four-year terms the following year. That four-year election cycle next takes place in 2021.
By a 4-3 vote, council members Cheryl Richardson, Michelle Cooper Kelly, Joseph Goldstein and Reggie Copeland voted “no” to ensure it would stay that way. Johnny Walker, Grif Chalfant and Andy Morris voted for the mayor’s proposal. Tumlin vetoed the vote, but his proposal still died.
Tumlin and city attorney Doug Haynie both said the veto does not move the item forward or back to committees.
Prior to the vote, Richardson grilled Tumlin about the proposal, which was brought to a committee meeting and a work session which he did not attend. She said that the mayor brought up the same idea in 2015 when the council was discussing term limits, but it didn’t get support from any council members and it hasn’t been brought up since then.
“If this was so important for this city...where’s it been in five years?” she said. “Now we’re on the cusp of an election, and suddenly it has to be heard? You haven’t said why it’s so important.”
Tumlin said he’d had the idea bookmarked for years, and that by holding municipal elections more frequently it might give voters more opportunities to participate. He pointed to low voter turnout for city elections, which can be less than 10%.
In the mayor’s original proposal, the seats currently filled by himself, Walker, Chalfant and Morris would have a one-time two-year term, followed by four-year terms. Tumlin said he chose those positions because those were the longer-serving members of the city’s governing body, though which seats were affected could be subject to change.
Kelly, the city’s mayor pro tem, lamented what she called “spirited” discussions and the mayor and council “battling it out in the paper” over the past two weeks. She said it might have gone better if the mayor had communicated more to the council earlier, even if the final vote was the same.
“I haven’t heard a voter ask for this. I’m concerned we’re proposing a solution to a non-problem,” she said. “Certainly Johnny (Walker) and Grif (Chalfant) have been in the loop on this. The rest of us have not. I don’t feel very included, and I’m mayor pro tem.”
A separate item, which would have put the idea before the voters in the form of a nonbinding ballot referendum, was dismissed.