THOMASVILLE — A potentially new-look city council may have an opportunity to shape the direction of Thomasville for years to come if transition comes in the form of turnover this fall.
City Manager Michael Brandt presented the possibility of creating a citywide strategic plan earlier this month that would lay out the mission and goals of the city, the primary issues council would want to address. Brandt posed questions of what council members would want to accomplish and how to implement the plan.
In the process of doing so, he mentioned the changing landscape of local politics that will come with a switch to four-year terms for council members this year.
“We are also about to go through a political change in Thomasville for the first time in a long time,” Brandt said. “We’re going to go to a four-year term, with the top four vote-getters in the next election serving four years, the three serving two years, then rotating from there. By having a council that now will be [serving] four-year terms, there will be more time for them to focus strategically.”
In 2018, council elected to change the city charter by virtue of a unanimous vote from its members to amend Section 304 of the charter. Beginning in the 2021 election cycle, and after that cycle, the amendment creates four-year staggered terms for council members and the mayor.
Council discussed setting money aside for the new council to develop and implement a strategic plan, but Councilman Scott Styers cautioned Brandt and his fellow council members that doing so could have unintended consequences.
“I’m not opposed to going ahead and putting it in the budget to fund it, if you think you need to do it prior to July,” Styers said. “It concerns me that people who have no idea what you can and cannot do yet are making a strategic plan. … If I hadn’t had Raleigh York sitting there, and Ricky Murphy, and Kelly [Craver] being a manager that understood he didn’t need to make every policy decision, if I hadn’t had that, I couldn’t have made a strategic plan.”
Brandt said he is ready to get started as city manager, beginning his tenure with action in the first year. He became city manager as part of a transition this year that included the retirement of 15 city employees, including outgoing manager Kelly Craver.
Styers was complimentary of Brandt’s predecessor in how he handled the last major overhaul of Thomasville City Council in 2007 when Styers, Councilman Neal Grimes and Pat Shelton joined the local government. He also remembered how tumultuous the period was and fears a similar shift could occur with his departure and the possible looming exodus of other council members.
“I just think it will be overwhelming, and I think the very fact it will be overwhelming will make it a lot less likely to be successful,” Styers said. “Michael, I hear what you’re saying. You’re doing your job and you want what is the best for this city. … I want to do it right now. I want to go ahead and get started on it, but I fully understand that we don’t have the time to maybe even complete it, much less to start any implementation.
“I’ve made a decision not to run, so unfortunately, that’s what goes with that. I just hope, for the sake of this city, that we’ll be smart about the way this is conducted.”
It remains unclear who could join Styers in making a decision not to run for reelection. Councilman Joe Leonard has announced his intentions to run for mayor, while others have remained mum about their intentions.
Meanwhile, there is growing anticipation among council members and staff that a majority of the seven available seats could change hands in November.
“People have mentioned today that there are potentially up to four seats that are going to [have new members], a new council in one sort or another,” Brandt said. “If one person said they were not running, we’d try to move forward, but when a majority of the board says that, then you’ve got to play it differently.”
Staff writer Daniel Kennedy can be reached at 336-888-3578, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.