Office of the Mayor - May 10, 2019
Representatives Donny Lambeth and Debra Conrad and Mayor Allen Joines announced today that they have reached an agreement on a process for evaluating potential changes to the method used to elect the mayor and City Council members.
Lambeth will withdraw House Bill 519 that he and Conrad previously introduced, which would have created a council comprising five members elected by district and three elected at large and would have reduced the terms of council members to two years. In exchange, Lambeth, Conrad and Joines, along with the City Council, will create an 11-member, non-partisan study commission to review best practices relative to municipal governance structure, obtain public input as to the type of structure desired by the citizens of Winston-Salem, and analyze any potential impacts or consequences of proposed changes.
The study commission will be co-chaired by Steve Berlin, the managing partner of the Kilpatrick Townsend law firm; and Dr. David Branch, a local ophthalmologist and community leader. The remaining members will be selected within the next few weeks and will include experts in municipal governance, neighborhood leaders, community activists and other civic leaders. It is intended that members of the commission are not potential candidates for elective office.
The commission will take as much time as necessary to fully evaluate the city’s election process. If it determines that a change in the process is needed, the commission will recommend a structure that ensures appropriate representation of all segments of the population.
It is anticipated that the recommendations of the commission would be available by the beginning of the 2020 session of the General Assembly. Given the time needed for the commission to complete its work, no changes will occur in the 2020 election process for the Winston-Salem mayor and City Council.
Mayor Joines expressed appreciation to Lambeth and Conrad for their willingness to allow time for a thorough evaluation of potential changes in the structure of the City Council and related election procedures.
Lambeth stated that the purpose of HB 519 was to bring Winston-Salem’s governance structure in line with the majority of other municipalities within the state. Limiting minority representation on the council was not the intent. He stated that he looks forward to results of the study commission.