Candidates for Statesboro City Council, such as those who will qualify next week for the May 22 special election in District 5, need to have been residents of their district for just six months, City Attorney Cain Smith said Thursday.
Smith had previously noted a one-year residency requirement. But just as sections of Georgia law referenced in the timing of the election contradict each other, sections of the Statesboro City Charter conflict on the minimum time of residence required of candidates.
Part of charter Section 1-3 states: “No person shall be eligible to serve as councilmember unless he or she has been a resident of the district which he or she seeks to represent for 12 months immediately preceding the election. Each member of the city council shall continue to reside within the district he or she is representing during his or her entire term of office and shall be registered and qualified to vote in the municipal elections of the city.”
However, Section 8-7 states: “No person shall be eligible for the office of mayor of the city who has not been a resident thereof for one year or more continuously preceding the election, and who is not a qualified elector to vote in the city elections of the city. Nor shall any person be eligible for the office of councilmember of the city who is not eligible for the office of mayor, and who has not resided in the district which such person seeks to represent for at least six months immediately preceding the date of election.”
Smith’s reading of this is that a council member must be a resident of the city for one year, as required of the mayor, but a resident of the particular district for six months.
“When two legal provisions conflict I am inclined to defer to the less restrictive provision if the two possess equal status, which is the case here since they (1-3 and 8-7) are both Charter provisions,” he wrote in an email Thursday. “That would mean Council eligibility requires one year of continuous city residence and six months of particular district residence immediately preceding the date of election."
So, this corrects the last paragraph of a story about the election timing in Thursday’s printed version of the Statesboro Herald. The web version of that story has been changed to state that candidates must have been residents of the district for at least six months.
This may make a difference for one would-be District 5 candidate, real estate agent Ashley Padgett, who has been a resident of Statesboro for more than 15 years but moved to his current home in District 5 in November after taking a purchase contract on the house in September, he said. Phoned Wednesday, Pagdett said he was seeking an answer about his eligibility from City Clerk Sue Starling.
The winner of the May 22 special election would serve out the unexpired term of former Councilman Travis Chance, who resigned earlier this month after 10 years in office and is now a candidate for county commissioner. The unexpired term ends Dec. 31, 2019, and District 5 will have to elect a council member to a four-year term in November 2019.
Padgett said he wants what is best for the city, accepted the council’s decision on the election timing, and plans to run now if he can.
“If I don’t qualify, I will look at making a go of it next year when it opens up again,” Padgett said.
Candidates for the District 5 special election will qualify in the city clerk’s office at City Hall between 8 a.m. Monday and noon Wednesday, March 26–28. The fee is $227.
Incidentally, the charter also contradicts itself on the minimum residency required for mayor, with another sentence in Section 1-3 stating that the mayor “must have been a resident of the City of Statesboro for at least two years.”
Herald reporter Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.