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Posted on: March 12, 2020

[ARCHIVED] Local Governance Study Commission Recommends 10-Member City Council With Two At-Large Seats

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Office of the Mayor
March 12, 2020

The members of Winston-Salem Local Governance Study Commission voted yesterday to recommend that Winston-Salem change to a 10-member city council, with eight members elected by wards and two elected citywide by all voters in the city.

Other than this change, the committee recommended keeping the status quo:  that council members be elected to four-year terms; that all terms run concurrently; that elections be partisan and held on even-number years; and that the mayor be elected at large and only vote at council meetings to break a tie.

The commission co-chairs, Steven Berlin and Dr. David Branch, will set up meeting with Mayor Allen Joines and N.C. Reps. Donny Lambeth and Debra Conrad to present the commission’s recommendations. Joines, Lambeth and Conrad jointly announced the commission last May and asked it to evaluate the city’s election process with a goal of having recommendations in place before the start of the General Assembly’s 2020 session. 

The recommendations will also be sent to the City Council, which is allowed under N.C. law to change any aspect of the city’s election process except the timing of council elections. Election timing can only be changed by the General Assembly, which also has the final say over all aspects of the city’s election process.

The commission’s vote to recommend a 10-member council with two at-large seats was the clear preference in the responses to a survey that the commission created to collect public input. Of the 921 survey responses, 57 percent endorsed this option. Twenty-eight percent favored a council with five members elected by district and three elected at large, and 14 percent favored six members elected by district and two at large.

Scott Tesh, the city’s director of performance and accountability, noted that the survey results cannot be construed as a representative sample of the city population because participation was voluntary. Nonetheless, commission members took the size of the differences between the options as providing some measure of public sentiment.

Given the time needed for the commission to complete its work, when the commission was appointed in last May no changes were expected to be made in the 2020 election process for the Winston-Salem mayor and City Council.

A webpage for the commission has been created at Agendas and minutes of meetings are posted on the page.

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