GARLAND — After a public hearing to change the mayoral limit, the town is a little closer to having a new mayor every two years, instead of four.
The commissioners received a low turnout for the public hearing to adopt a resolution of intent to consider changing the term. Attendee Sylvia Carter, the lone speaker, was in favor of the change. While addressing the commission, she referred to other locations with two years. One of the examples included Houston, which has a population of more than 2.2 million people.
“How much more business does the town of Houston, Texas have than the town of Garland? There’s no comparison,” Carter said responding to concerns about two years not being enough time for a mayor.
Garland’s mayor-council government consists of one mayor and five commissioners. One member serves as mayor pro tem. Officials on the council serve four-year terms.
“It’s extremely important to communicate and work with each other in order to grow a community or to do anything else of any significance,” Carter said while stressing the importance of the commission working together, despite personal conflicts.
“A two year term for mayor will ensure that the office does not become a dysfunctional power struggle …,” Carter said.
In 2015, the issue was debated by commissioners after Mayor Pro Tem Haywood Johnson and Commissioner Ralph Smith requested the change just in case residents were not pleased with the mayor’s work.
Following the reading of the resolution of intent to change the mayoral term by Attorney Michael Porter, there was a moment of silence before the hearing ended. There was not a lot of discussion among the commissioners, but Mayor Winifred Murphy responded about the mayoral term limit — something she does not want to change.
“With Garland being a very small town and having so many infrastructure needs and lack of quality services for our citizens, all elected officials, mayor and commissioners, should be allowed to serve a minimum of four year terms,” Murphy said. “This should be done in a collaborative, supportive, and unified spirit to serve our citizens and town in the absence of political agendas.”
Murphy added that the small town in southern Sampson County does not have a manager such as larger cities. She believes the mayor and commissioner positions should have the stability and impetus to move Garland forward.
“To have two-year term mayors or even commissioners, will be an injustice to the town and to the citizens of Garland, not just for the immediate future but for future years to come,” Murphy said. “The importance of collective visioning, continuity of services, and long-range planning will be compromised.”
Currently, the majority of the commissioners feel that a shorter term is best for the town.
“Unfortunately, many citizens chose not to come to the public hearing on Tuesday because they felt that their voices would not be heard,” Murphy said about the sparse public hearing.
Previously, Murphy said she does not plan to run for another term. Her current term will expire in 2017.
“As mayor, it is always my goal to provide leadership that will best serve the town and it is my desire for mayors after my tenure to have consistent and stable leadership,” Murphy said.
The mayoral term may be discussed at the February meeting. Although the public hearing was held before the regular board meeting, it was not placed on the agenda and was not discussed during the regular board meeting.
Reach Chase Jordan at 910-249-4617. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.