I enjoy the unique perspective of seeing Ringgold’s government as a former eight-year watchdog journalist – ensuring its members and staff were transparent in all efforts, and also serving as vice mayor and council member for 10 years.
I know amazing Georgia mayors who bring great success to their communities. I worked alongside former Mayor Joe Barger helping him tell the story that he and the City Council wanted to share to improve the possibilities for success in the community we all love.
In Georgia, power flows from the people to the state through the legislature and the governor. They share it by forming counties and cities allowing for the election of local officials to oversee those.
Ringgold is a hybrid of the council-city manager form of government where all council members and the mayor are elected at large by residents. Council members are vested with all the powers of government. The mayor is vested with specific charter duties: conduct council meetings; receive lawsuits; serve for ceremonial purposes, as official spokesperson and chief advocate of policy; administer oaths; take affidavits; and sign contracts, ordinances, and other documents with council approval. The mayor also votes on certain board appointments, breaks a council tie, and appoints special committees with council ratification.
Thus, our mayor’s position is largely ceremonial in nature. All decisions, all ordinances, the appointment of our chief executive (city manager) and affirmation of department heads are the duty of City Council members.
A mayor must work with your chosen elected council for the city to be effective in your goals. By law, he or she is the council spokesperson and the chief advocate of the policies set by the council members and the charter given us by the legislature. He or she must be able to convey the council’s vision and its hopes for the future with confidence and support. If a mayor chooses to work against decisions of the council, then he or she fails to fulfill his or her elected duties.
We need a mayor who with no excuses attends a high percentage — let’s say 75 percent or greater — of the events at which the city should be represented: grand openings, ribbon cuttings, business events, groundbreakings, county-city meetings, regional meetings, state and federal meetings. The mayor should volunteer to work 75 percent of the time for city-sponsored events. The mayor, like the council, should attend training to achieve a better understanding of the issues the city faces.
We need a personable mayor that can represent us in a business-like manner in a public forum when asked to speak on behalf the city.
We need a mayor that can earn the respect of those who can help bring our vision to reality whether they are CEOs, elected or appointed county, state or federal officials.
Can a mayor impact the direction of a city? Yes, if he or she says or does the wrong thing, the public perceives he or she is speaking for us. A misstep can cost residents and businesses money. It can end a company’s desire to build a new factory or open a business, losing potential jobs for area residents and millions in investment or tax revenues for our community. If he or she openly promotes or fosters conflict rather than harmony, millions of dollars in grants, future infrastructure investment, and potential businesses can move on to other communities where investors see a better political climate.
If the mayor has a vision and can gain support of a majority of those you have elected to run the city, he or she can move the community in the direction of that vision. We definitely saw that with former Mayor Joe Barger. Let’s say for example, you have an amazing visionary hope, or need a concern solved outside normal business, and you share that with our mayor. Unless he or she can influence the majority of the council, then it’s likely nothing will happen.
Residents will soon qualify for the offices of mayor and council. I hope someone runs for mayor who will work with our council representing the amazing vision fostered by our elected councils. There are so many amazing plans waiting. We are now seeing many of those dreams come to fruition. I hope you will seek out and support the candidate I describe above. Let’s bring more businesses, more jobs, more opportunities for success of our youth, and strive to make Ringgold an even greater place to live, work and play!