The Oconee County Board of Elections and Registration on Monday postponed any decision on a special election in Watkinsville–necessitated by the abrupt resignation of Bob Smith as mayor--pending action taken by the Council on Thursday evening.
Elections Board Chair Rebecca Anglin said at the Monday meeting that although Smith resigned as mayor at the Mayor and Council meeting on March 17, she has not yet been told which offices might need to be filled in a special election.
When Smith resigned at the March 17 Council meeting and left the room, Mayor Pro-Tem Brian Brodrick became the acting mayor.
If the Council votes formally to make Brodrick acting mayor on Thursday night, his Post 1 position will become vacant, according to city Manager Sharyn Dickerson.
In that case, the Board of Elections and Registration, which conducts elections for the city under an agreement between the two governmental entities, will call and conduct the election on June 15, the next date designated by the state for special elections.
Anglin told the Board it is her plan to hold early voting and voting on election day at City Hall if that election is held. Only residents of the city of Watkinsville–not all members of the county City Hall precinct--will be eligible to vote.
Under the terms of the intergovernmental agreement, she said, the city will be responsible for the estimated $14,000 cost of the special election.
At the March 17 Mayor and Council meeting, after reading a resolution congratulating the North Oconee High School Swim Team, Smith said “I have an announcement to make.”
|Smith Walks To Clerk To Hand In Resignation|
(Small Box, Top Right, From City Video Of Meeting)
It was 17 minutes into the meeting, and Smith had left his chair behind the desk at the front of the room to stand at the podium for guest speakers to read the resolutions and congratulate those being celebrated.
Smith then read a two-page statement that repeated his oft-stated contention that the Council had taken action in December of 2019 “stripping away the mayor’s responsibilities and giving them to an unelected city manager.”
“As I have seen in the last 14 months,” Smith’s statement reads, “there is no need for the position of Mayor.”
After he finished reading his statement, Smith walked from the podium, handed his statement to the city clerk, and left the room.
After a 10-minute pause, Brodrick, mayor pro-tem, assumed the role of acting mayor, and Council elected Council Member Christine Tucker as acting mayor pro-tem.
Smith ran for mayor against incumbent Dave Shearon in 2019, but he really ran against the Mayor and the Council as a whole.
The Mayor and Council had turned over day-to-day management of the city to Dickerson on an exploratory basis, and it finalized that decision, creating a city manager position, in the last meeting of the Mayor and Council before Smith assumed office in January of 2020.
Smith, who operates a commercial real estate business and owns residential properties in the city, had been at odds with the Council over zoning issues prior to the election.
In his letter, Smith refers to zoning and property issues twice.
“(T)he unelected city manager has taken over the responsibilities and duties that once belonged to the mayor,” he said. “The Mayor has virtually no authority to meet with people desiring property changes, negotiate transactions or give any input whatsoever on the business of Watkinsville government.”
“The railroading of some city council driven projects, questionable building permits/zoning/variance decisions, consolidation of all of the city bank accounts into a single bank, and having 24 different city credit cards all with the signatory control of the unelected city manager leaves me no choice but to resign,” Smith said.
In 2019, Smith won by two votes in an election that brought out 804 voters, or 39.6 percent of the 2,029 then active registered voters in the city.
One of the 804 persons who voted wrote in a name, and one person did not vote in the mayoral race.
The final tally was 402 votes for Smith and 400 for Shearon.
The total number of registered voters as of Monday for the City of Watkinsville was 2,241 (2,137 Active, 104 Inactive), according to Jennifer Stone, assistant director of elections and registration for Oconee County.
The registration deadline will be May 17 for a June 15th Special Election, if one takes place, Stone said.
Any required runoff from the June 15 election would be on July 13.
Smith’s term expired at the end of the year, so voters will vote on a mayor again in November.
The terms of Brodrick and Council Member Connie Massey also expire this year.
The called meeting on Thursday is at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall.
The video below is of the March 22 meeting of the Oconee County Board of Elections and Registrations.
Assistant Director Stone recorded the meeting.
The Board was meeting to certify the results of the March 16 Education Local Option Sales Tax Referendum.
Discussion of the likely Watkinsville election began with the report by Director Anglin at 6:43 in the video.