Columbus Councilor Skip Henderson, who has announced his intent to run for mayor in 2018, has to make a decision by Feb. 19 that will impact the way his council successor is chosen.
Henderson announced last month his intention to run for mayor in 2018, ending months of speculation on whether the real estate broker would seek the city’s highest office being vacated by Mayor Teresa Tomlinson.
By law, Henderson has to resign from the citywide council seat that he has held for 21 years to seek the mayor’s job. But when he resigns is critical, according to City Attorney Clifton Fay.
The qualifying period for the May 22, 2018, city election is March 5-9, 2018.
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 waits until the qualifying period a couple of weeks later to resign, then the appointed person will serve until 2020, Fay said.
“However, if Councilor Henderson vacates his council seat after Feb. 19, 2018, or by qualifying to run for mayor between March 5-9 at noon, 2018, council will then appoint a person to sit in his seat until a special election can be held on May 26, 2020,” Fay said.
That information is new to Henderson, he said on Thursday.
“To be honest, I hadn’t thought much about it,” he said. “My plan has been to work as long as I can and stay until I qualify. ... My focus has been to do the job I was elected to do and do it as long as I could.”
Henderson said he will not jump into a decision, but he will take time to carefully consider it.
“Staying until qualifying had been my plan, but now I have until February to evaluate this,” he said. “If it is better to pull a ‘Plan B,’ then we can do that. ... I am not going to do anything that will harm this community.”
The timing of the length of the successor’s term is directly connected to the 90-day period required by Georgia law to call a special election, Fay said.
“There is not sufficient time between March 2018 and the May 22, 2018, election to meet the 90-day call and notice provision of state law, which controls over any shorter time period specified in the charter,” Fay said.
Former Muscogee County School Board member Beth Harris has announced her intention to run for mayor, as has Charles Roberts, a operations analyst lead at TSYS.