As Columbus Councilor Skip Henderson prepares to run for mayor later this year, he said on Monday he will resign his council post about three weeks before he qualifies to allow his current seat to be on the May ballot.
The timing of Henderson’s resignation is critical to how he will be replaced on the 10-member council.
“We didn’t get pushed into this,” Henderson said Monday afternoon. “This is consistent with what I have done while serving on council. When there has been an opportunity to allow the citizens of this community to vote, that is what I have done. It’s the purest form of government.”
Henderson plans to resign on Feb. 14. The qualifying period for the May 22 city election is March 5-9. Henderson will miss one scheduled council business meeting and one proclamation meeting by resigning early.
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By law, Henderson has to resign from the citywide council seat that he has held for more than 21 years to seek the mayor’s job. But when he resigns is critical, City Attorney Clifton Fay said last year. Henderson was re-elected to a four-year term in 2016.
Since Henderson has been in his job for more than 180 days, Columbus Council will appoint someone to fill his seat. But the timing of Henderson’s resignation and Columbus Charter, Section 6-201 will determine how long the appointed person holds the seat, Fay said.
“If the vacancy occurs prior to Feb. 19, 2018, then a 90-day call and notice will be issued by the Board of Elections and a special election to replace the Council appointee will be held on May 22, 2018 to fill the Council seat for the balance of the unexpired term,” Fay said in an email.
If Henderson had waited to the May qualifying period a couple of weeks later to resign, then the council appointed person will serve until 2020, Fay said.
There at least four other candidates joining Henderson in the mayoral race. Former Muscogee County School Board representative Norma Elizabeth "Beth" Harris, Charles Edwin Roberts, a computer operations analyst lead at TSYS, and Danny Arencibia, who works at Rivertown Ford, have said they will seek the office being vacated Mayor Teresa Tomlinson.
Tollie Strode, Jr., leader of a citizens’ accountability group which has wrangled with the city over finances on occasion, announced last week that he would seek Henderson’s seat if there was a special election.
There had been speculation on several online forums about what Henderson would do.
“It hasn’t been a secret,” Henderson said. “If anyone wanted to know, all they had to do was call me. In fact, I did get one call from someone who was interested in the seat.”
Henderson’s move will put the mayor’s job and both citywide council posts on the ballot. Incumbent Judy Thomas has said she intended to seek re-election to the office she has held for eight years. The winner of the special election for Henderson’s seat will be back on the ballot in 2020.