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Mayor's Office

Posted on: November 6, 2019

Local Governance Study Commission Briefed on Other City Councils

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NEWS RELEASE
Office of the Mayor
Nov. 6, 2019

During their November meeting yesterday the members of Winston-Salem Local Governance Study Commission were briefed on how several other cities and towns in North Carolina elect their city officials.

Jim Westmoreland, the retired city manager for Greensboro, said that Greensboro has eight city council members: five elected by districts and three elected at large. The mayor also is elected at large and votes on all agenda items. In 2015 the General Assembly, without the consent of the Greensboro City Council, amended Greensboro’s charter to have all eight members elected by district. The change was appealed and in 2017 a federal court found that the district boundaries stipulated by the legislature were unconstitutional, so the revised charter never took effect.

Westmoreland also said that in 2015 city residents voted to have all council members serve four-year terms. Previously, they served two-year terms. He said that Greensboro voters, as a whole, prefer having some at-large members because they can vote for those candidates as well as for a candidate in their district. 

Roger Stancil, a former manager for three small towns in Pitt County as well as the city of Fayetteville and the town of Chapel Hill, spoke of his experiences under different council structures that ranged from all members elected at large to all members elected by districts. Stancil noted that when he first arrived in Fayetteville in 1980 the council comprised nine members, all elected at large, and they all lived in the same part of town. He said that a change in 1983 to six members elected by districts and three at large provided better geographic representation.

Stancil said that in his experience, when all council members were elected by district he observed that they tended to focus on their districts rather than the city as a whole. On the other hand, he said, minority populations sometimes had difficulty electing candidates to at-large seats.  

The commission is accepting input from city residents on the method for electing the mayor and City Council members. Residents can submit their thoughts online using a form posted at CityofWS.org/LGSC.

The 11-member, non-partisan commission, jointly appointed by Mayor Allen Joines and N.C. Reps. Donny Lambeth and Debra Conrad, is evaluating 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. 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.

The commission meets the first Tuesday of each month. A webpage for the commission has been created at CityofWS.org/LGSC. Agendas and minutes of meetings are posted on the page.

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