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Norwood will consider change to council

By Shannon Beamon
Staff Writer
New state legislation could change the composition of the Norwood Town Council.
On Thursday, N.C. Rep. Justin Burr introduced a bill that would reduce the number of commissioners on the town council from six to five.
In addition, the bill (HB 1091) would change the mayor’s role on the council. Rather than serving as a spokesperson who only votes in the case of a tie, the mayor would become a voting member of the council, making him or her eligible to vote on any matter of town business.
Norwood Administrator John Mullis said councilors have talked about such a switch before. And while they never formally requested Burr introduce the bill, they did contact his office about preparing documents needed for such a change.
On Monday, Norwood commissioners will hold a special called meeting at 6 p.m. to decide whether to support the bill with a resolution.
“Some might say the resolution should have come before (the bill)… but we needed the language from the bill to write the resolution,” Mullis said.
Moreover, the council has already had a chance to try that kind of governing body on for size, so to speak. After former mayor Beverly Johnson stepped down in April 2016, the council never reappointed anyone to her position, Mullis said.
“So we’ve been essentially doing (a five-member council) for a year already,” Mullis said. “It works great.”
Mullis described a five member council as more efficient than a six member one. Particularly because the mayor is not just a spokesperson.
“The mayor can actually do something about what they’re passionate about,” Mullis said.
A governing body with five voting members is already used in municipalities across the state, including the village of Misenheimer.
However, unlike Misenheimer — whose councilors select a mayor from among themselves — Norwood would continue to decide its mayor by public election under the new bill.
“We want the public to elect the mayor,” Mullis said.”That’s big for us.”
In fact, that was why the current council never appointed someone to fill Johnson’s position, he asserted.
“We want as many people as possible to have a voice in that (position),” Mullis said.
The new bill also includes a change that might increase voter participation in such races.
Currently Norwood’s mayoral elections take place in the middle of a presidential term (i.e. the mayor’s race will take place this November). However, the new bill would switch them to the same year as presidential elections, when voter participation is much higher.
That means whoever is elected mayor in November would serve a two-year term rather than a four-year term, so that the following mayoral election would fall on a presidential election year.
“We want it to be as fair as it can,” Mullis said.
However, before the bill can be voted on by the House, it will go through a number of committees. The resolution the Norwood commissioners vote on Monday night could help encourage that process.
“So we’ll see what the commissioners decide,” Mullis said.

Contact Shannon Beamon at 704-982-0816 or shannon.beamon@stanlynewspress.com.