From left, Deke Copenhaver, Mayor Garnett Johnson, Hardie Davis Jr. and Bob Young. Charmain Z. Brackett/Augusta Good News
From left, Deke Copenhaver, Mayor Garnett Johnson, Hardie Davis Jr. and Bob Young. Charmain Z. Brackett/Augusta Good News

Johnson enlists former mayors to help in fight for mayoral voting power

 None of the men at the podium March 13 at Augusta Mayor Garnett Johnson’s press conference were running for election, but they are campaigning for an idea whose time they believe is long overdue – giving the mayor an equal vote on the commission in all matters.

“It’s time for me to roll up my sleeves to start up a campaign I never anticipated on starting, but I’m excited about it because this is historic. It gives us a first opportunity in almost 30 years to correct a wrong that has so hampered our government,” said Johnson after the conference ended.

 Joining the mayor in his push to get voters to say “yes” to the referendum on May 21 are former mayors Deke Copenhaver, Bob Young and Hardie Davis Jr. as well as former Sen. Charles Walker and former Commissioner Richard Colclough.

Johnson called these men the ballot committee, and March 13 was the kickoff date for their campaign.

Walker, along with other state officials, worked on consolidation of the city and county 28 years ago “to save the city from bankruptcy,” he said during the press conference.

They worked on it the entire legislative session, but the charter came down to the wire – the last 90 minutes.

 “Never would I have thought the mayor could not get a vote,” he said. “We named him the chief executive officer. That implies he has the authority to get things done.”

But because it wasn’t explicitly stated within the charter, the mayor hasn’t been allowed to vote, leaving a gridlock in Augusta-Richmond County government.

“This is something we’ve got to do for the citizens of Augusta so that we can move forward with more efficiency and more prosperity,” said Copenhaver, who leads the ballot committee.

Copenhaver said it’s important because the mayor is the one position representing the entire city.

Johnson said the vote will not give the office extended power, but it will make things more fair and will allow the government to run more efficiently.  

Johnson pointed to the city administrator position as an example of the need for a mayoral vote. He said he believes the city would have an administrator by now if he were allowed a vote

Johnson said members of the committee will be taking to the streets on Saturday during the St. Patrick’s Day parade as well as Food Truck Friday on March 15 to urge citizens to vote.

If the measure passes on May 21, Johnson said he plans to call for the creation of a charter review committee, who can take their recommendations to the voters to decide.

Charmain Z. Brackett, the publisher of Augusta Good News and Inspiring: Women of Augusta, has covered Augusta’s news for 35 years. Reach her at Sign up for the newsletter here.

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