Trenton City Elections Set: Clerk Job Officially Axed

At its regular July meeting on Monday evening, the Trenton City Commission tidied up arrangements for its odd-year elections this November. On November 7, as well as voting on a liquor-by-the-drink referendum which if passed would open up the town to hard alcohol in restaurants as well as the beer and wine currently permissible, Trenton voters will also elect two city commissioners.

Qualifying fees are $108 for each of the part-time commission positions. Trenton Mayor Alex Case originally set the qualifying dates for the last week in August but, ironically, was corrected by City Clerk Lucretia Houts (left, in a file shot), who explained that the qualifying period is set by the state of Georgia. That period is Aug. 21, 22 and 23.

The irony comes from the fact that had the mayor and sitting commission not just sought and obtained local legislation abolishing Ms. Houts’ position, Ms. Houts would also be up for reelection this year, as she has each four years since she first won the clerk position in 1989. Georgia Senate Bill 284, unanimously requested by Trenton’s part-time mayor and four part-time commissioners, and sponsored by Georgia Sen. Jeff Mullis, makes the city clerk’s full-time position an appointed rather than elected one.

“The city clerk serving in office as of January 1, 2017, shall serve the remainder of the term of office for which such city clerk was elected; however, no further elections shall be conducted for the position of city clerk and the term of such elected city clerk shall end on the first Monday in January, 2018. Beginning on the first Monday in January, 2018, there shall be an appointed city clerk who shall carry out the duties of city clerk as set forth in this charter and other applicable law. The city clerk shall be appointed by the mayor, subject to confirmation by the city council, and shall serve at the pleasure of the governing authority of the city," reads SB 284, in part.

SB 284 was enacted May 9 after the commission quietly put a request for it on the consent agenda of its November 2016 regular meeting. Commissioners in November said the move had been in the works since the previous administration, but it had not been discussed at the February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September or October 2016 regular meetings. Nor was the successful passage of the bill mentioned at the city commission’s regular meeting last month or at this one.

In any case, after easily winning reelection for 27 years, City Clerk Houts may well be on the pavement on Jan. 1 if that should be “the pleasure of the governing authority of the city.” Trenton voters will not have the opportunity this year to decide the matter.

The Trenton City Commission, left from right: Clerk Houts, Mayor Case, Commissioners (Police) Sandra Gray, (Parks and Recreation) Terry Powell, (Fire/Utilities) Jerry Henegar and (Streets) Monda Wooten)

They do still have a decision to make about the posts of police commissioner and parks and recreation/animal control commissioner. Currently, Trenton’s police commissioner is Sandra Gray and the parks/rec seat is held by Terry Powell. Both have held their seats for multiple terms.

This fall’s election will be not at Trenton City Hall but at the Dade County Administrative Building, and will be administered by Lowanna Vaughn of the Dade Board of Elections. Pursuant to an intergovernmental agreement with Dade County, Trenton’s regular odd-year election has been conjoined not just with the city liquor-by-the-drink referendum but with the countywide referendum on TSPLOST, the transportation special purpose local option sales tax. “It wouldn’t make sense to have three or four people here,” said Mayor Case of the combined elections.

The TSPLOST would add another cent on the dollar to the local sales tax. That penny would be shared 75/25 between the county and city for use on such transportation projects as roads and sidewalks. Mayor Case pointed out several times during the July 10 meeting that Trenton could sorely use that kind of project. “We’ve got some areas that are in dire need of repair,” he said.

For questions about the combined elections, or about qualifying for the two open city positions, readers may call Trenton City Hall at (706) 657-4167 or the Dade Board of Elections at (706) 657-8170

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