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Boyum announces he’ll vacate City Council seat at year end
Council votes to put special election on ballot with 3 districts up for regular election Nov. 7
boyum current 2021
Phil Boyum

With three seats on Statesboro City Council already due for an election Nov. 7, a fourth may be added, since District 1 Councilmember Phil Boyum announced Tuesday that he will resign effective Dec. 31.

But unlike District 2 Councilmember Paulette Chavers, District 3 Councilmember Venus Mack and District 5 Councilmember Shari Barr, whose current terms expire at the end of the year, Boyum is in the middle of a four-year term. Candidates for the District 2, 3 and 5 seats must qualify next week, Monday through Friday, Aug. 21-25. City Clerk Leah Harden will accept the required forms and $227 fee at City Hall between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. daily, except during her lunch hour.

However, the qualifying period for the District 1 seat, currently Boyum’s, will not be next week because filling the remainder of his term requires a special election, even if held Nov. 7 along with the regular election to those other three seats. When the special election qualifying will occur remained an open question Wednesday, along with whether such an election can be held for a council member’s seat while that member remains in office.

 

Made the motion

Boyum made his announcement during the “Other Business from City Council” time near the end of Tuesday night’s regular council meeting.

“As we well know, qualifying starts for Districts 2, 3 and 5 next week, and I am going to make a motion here in just a minute to have a special election for District 1, as I will be submitting my resignation as of December 31st,” Boyum said.

He said he wasn’t going into much detail about his reasons.

“It’s just time,” Boyum said. “I’ve put in 11 years and we’ve seen tremendous growth in the city, we’ve seen tremendous growth in the administration, and it’s just time.”

Georgia’s election laws provide four days each year for special elections, in March, June, September and November, he noted. Boyum also alluded to the fact that Election Day voting for council Districts 1 and 2 is held in the Statesboro 1 city precinct, whose voting place was recently relocated to the community building at Luetta Moore Park.

“Calling a special election in November clearly is the most cost-effective thing to do since we already have an election for District 2, we’re already using the building, we’re already contracting with the county,” he said.

Statesboro contracts with the county elections office to conduct the city’s elections.

Boyum then made the motion to call the District 1 special election for Nov. 7 “to run concurrently with the regular election.” District 4 Councilmember John Riggs seconded the motion.

 

Mayor’s comment

Before the council’s vote, which was 5-0, to call the election, Mayor Jonathan McCollar asked for a moment’s pause.

“Phil, we ain’t seen eye-to-eye, but you’ve worked damn hard,” McCollar said, and called for a round of applause for Boyum, which audience and council members delivered.

Tuesday night after the meeting, City Attorney Cain Smith said the city can call an election in this way, the deadline being 35 days before the election date.

But Smith and Harden, who is charge of candidate qualifying for Statesboro city elections, said they didn’t know when the special election qualifying would need to be held.

“The qualifying period is going to be based on advice given from the Board of Elections,” Smith said Tuesday night. “We do not have that date at this time.”

Phoned late morning Wednesday, Bulloch County Election Supervisor Shontay Jones she had just learned of the City Council action and did not have any answers yet.

“A lot of times in the (State Election) Code it depends on what’s specified in their city charters when it comes to a municipal election, what their charter allows their governing authority to do,” she said.

Late Wednesday afternoon, Harden said that under the Election Code, a special election must be advertised before it is considered to be called, and this hasn’t been done yet. So, the qualifying period could be announced after that notice, she said.

 

Seat not vacated

Another question city staff members are trying to answer is whether a special election can be held to fill a council member’s seat while that council member is still in office.

“Still another thing that we’re looking into is whether an election can be called while he’s still sitting there or if it has to be vacated,” was the way Harden put it.

She provided a copy of a section of the Statesboro City Charter that states in part: “In the event a vacancy occurs on the city council for any reason other than the expiration of the term of office, a special election to fill the unexpired term shall be held in accordance with … the ‘Georgia Election Code,” and the applicable terms of this Act in respect to residency and qualification.”

She said she has contacted the Elections Division at the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office seeking further information.

The District 1 special election would be for the final two years of the term.

 

Boyum says more

In a phone interview Wednesday, Boyum spoke further about his reasons for leaving the council after 11 years without completing the current term.

“I think sometimes we forget that elected officials are people, and in addition to our public life we have things going on behind the scenes, just like everybody else, and really it’s kind of a combination of things,” he said.

“Everything’s really fine from a health and a family point, but just some changes here recently,” Boyum continued. “My son graduated from high school and is off to college, and my parents moving into a new living situation. It just seemed like a puzzle, all the pieces seemed to fit together, and I was like, with the election coming up here, this would be a good time to step aside.”

Putting the special election on the ballot with the regular election, he noted, would save the city the expense of holding a separate special election at a later date.

“I thought by doing it at this time it was not only in the best interest for me, but it didn’t create any additional financial burden for the city or any additional work, really, for the staff,” Boyum said. “That was important for me as well because the staff and citizens have always been my number one concern.”

While details concerning a District 1 special election are sorted out, next week with determine whether Districts 2, 3 and 5 have contested races for council.

Chavers and Mack said they are definitely running, and Barr said she probably will. 

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