Who Will Be Decatur’s Next Mayor?

UPDATE: According to City Manager Peggy Merriss, Bill Floyd does not plan on attending the City Commission next Monday.


Next week’s Decatur city commission meeting should be an emotional one for all involved as current Mayor Bill Floyd resigns from the commission to take a job with the Pendleton Consulting Group. A 21-year member of the commission, and a 14-year tenure as mayor, Floyd is well-known throughout Georgia and well regarded amongst a great many of his constituents.

The void he leaves will be a sizable one to fill. And it’s a two step process.

In March, the city will hold a special election to fill Floyd’s seat on the commission. But first up, this coming Monday, the Decatur city commission will vote on who will be the city’s next mayor.

Who will it be? Mayor Pro-Tem Jim Baskett (first elected 1995)? District 2 Commissioner Kecia Cunningham (first elected in 1999)? District 1 Commissioner Fred Boykin (first elected in 2001)? Or District 2 to Commissioner Patti Garrett (first elected in 2009)?

30 thoughts on “Who Will Be Decatur’s Next Mayor?”

  1. Since this takes place before Mayor Floyd’s seat is filled, it’s really just an exercise in continuity among the current commission. Right now, Commissioner Baskett is the Mayor Pro-Tem which, when politics aren’t contentious, might as well be mayor-in-training/heir apparent.

    Does anyone really think one of the other three will make a challenge to that on the same night they say goodbye to the Mayor? Given the sizable void left by Mayor Floyd, my money’s on their keeping any sense of divisiveness to a minimum by going with Baskett. Even if one or more of them actually wants the job.

  2. Hmmm. I would rather the Mayor be chosen by ability and willingness to follow in Mayor Floyd’s shoes than by seniority. I think all of the candidates (maybe some Commissioners don’t want the position) should be required to put together a bio that includes the answer to questions like:
    – How will you reach out to elementary school children as Mayor? How have you demonstrated that capability so far? How often have you served as a “mystery reader”? In how many school plays or skits have you participated recently?
    – Do you regularly walk or bike around Decatur and greet your constituents?
    – What community events do you regularly attend?
    – Have you taken or spoken at Decatur 101?

    I wish the position could be held open until the new Commissioner is elected. Who knows, it could be someone particularly articulate, outgoing, well-known and liked in the community,
    and mayoral in bearing.

    1. I think I agree that it would be better if the new commissioner was in place prior to naming the new Mayor, however I don’t think the seniority thing is an issue. The fact that the commission elects annually the Mayor and the Mayor Pro Tem indicates to me that ability is taken into consideration each year for both positions.

      1. Truth is that I wish we citizens could vote for the Mayor. I’m fine with the Mayor being a Commissioner but I’d rather we voted vs. the Commissioners. I realize that it might end up a popularity contest but hey–isn’t that important for a City of Decatur Mayor, to be well-known and popular? I suppose the vote might just reflect the voter counts in the districts but I don’t think Decatur is factional by location anymore. If it wasn’t for the tracks, you wouldn’t even know which side was the northside and which side was the southside these days. (For better or worse.)

        1. I believe Mayor Floyd expressed the wish that the mayor be elected by the voters in his last State of the City address.

          1. I KNEW I liked that guy. We think alike. From now on, when I’m in a dilemma, I’m going to think “What would Mayor Floyd have done?”

          2. Indeed, but it didn’t have enough support from the rest of the commission to follow it through.

            As I wrote about in a previous post, Floyd believes that a new mayor may have trouble getting influential seats/posts on state/metro boards without the credentials of being a popularly elected mayor. Especially now that there are much more populous cities in DeKalb County WITH popularly elected mayors.

            I guess we will see.

    2. I would also like to see a drug and alcohol test added to the screening.

      Mostly because I think our local, state and national leaders need more drugs and alcohol.

  3. Hopefully not Patti – since she meets none of the requirements mentioned above. She was everywhere when running for election but rarely see her out in the community (Oakhurst)

    1. Maybe she’s just avoiding you, Rob. I can’t swing a cat in this town without hitting Commissioner Garrett.

      1. Seconded. I have three ways I find out what’s going on in Decatur — DM; the local grapevine; and crossing paths with Patti.

      2. Patti is more present, active and available, not only in the neighborhood but the city as a whole, than the other three put together. (Which is not necessarily a slam on any of them.) She’s an energetic and engaged representative who would make a wonderful mayor, and I hope she sits on the Commission for a long, long time.

    2. I unequivocally and totally disagree with you Rob. Not only is Patti Garrett everywhere, she’s always with her husband, Gary. I can promise you that she is out more and in-tune with the community as much or more than the other commissioners (not a knock on them). I didn’t vote for her, but am very pleased with her as a representative. I think she, or Gary, would make a GREAT mayor.

    3. I can only guess that you’re either joking, wearing blinders, or have a personal issue with Patti Garrett. I see both her and her husband at every Oakhurst Neighborhood association meeting, at most Jazz Nights at the Solarium, spoke with them both at the BBQ festival, and most recently ran into and spoke with them as they were doing the Decatur Tour of Homes. It’s almost funny how often I see them both out, about, and engaged.

    4. As someone with personal knowledge of how involved and engaged Patti was during our campaign, Patti and Gary have continued and increased their involvement and commitment. I marvel at their activity and energy. Patti is a great public servant and worker for our district and the City. I am honored to call her one of my City Commissioners.

    5. Well, maybe you did not see Patti within your home range, Rob, but I appreciated the job she did sharing the story of Decatur’s master planning process with planners at the Atlanta Regional Commission Community Planning Academy. One cannot be everywhere all at the same time (even Rob).

  4. Here are the official duties of the mayor, as provided by City Manager Peggy Merriss…

    (1) Be recognized as the head of the city government for all ceremonial purposes, and by the governor for purposes of military law.

    (2) Have no veto power, but shall have the same power to vote upon all questions passed upon as other city commissioners.

    (3) Serve as the chair of the meetings of the city commission. He/she shall have the power to convene the city commission in extra session whenever, in his/her judgment, it becomes necessary, and shall do so whenever requested by three city commissioners in writing.

    I may reach out to Mayor Floyd as well to get an idea of all the unofficial duties of the mayor.

    1. This is just officialspeak for the criteria I outlined above. I’m trying not to be a height elitist but Mayor Floyd’s tallness was also an asset. You could always pick him out in a crowd. And it would have come in handy if military law were ever invoked because of a military conflict and we needed a lookout. Alas, none of the commissioners remaining are very tall.

        1. Not tall enough to be Mayor, using my criteria! But I HAVE been a mystery reader! Being Mayor of COD looks attractive, except for that part about military law. I would not like to report to the Governor during a military conflict.

  5. I wish the next commissioner chosen as mayor the best of luck. Decatur is a commission/manager form of government and as much as I respect Mr. Floyd, he has very little authority as mayor. This is as it should be. The real power, in my opinion and sad to say, is not the mayor, or a member of the commission, or even the city manager, but those bureaucrats who research and explain the proposals that the commissioners vote on (Not dissing city employees who make recommendations before the commission, some of whom (city bureaucrats) I like and respect).
    Food for thought: Have you ever seen commissioners seriously challenge the proposals that are explained by city bureaucrats? This does not happen often.

    1. Chris, I think one of the reasons you don’t see many challenges is because the City Manager makes sure the Commission stays briefed on projects as they move along. The recent zoning changes are a case in point – the Commission had a number of work sessions (briefings) on the different proposals and then a final work session before the vote. It is a rare item that comes up for a vote without the Commission having had ample opportunities to review and comment on whatever is being proposed.

      The other thing of note is the effort that goes into creating the various plans developed over the years. Town Center Plan (1982), Town Center Plan Update (1989), Comprehensive Plan (1995), Strategic Plan (2000), etc. I’m willing to bet that you’ve provided public comment on a few of these yourself – as have a ton of others. I make it a point to read and review these 4 before the annual Commission retreat just so the history of how we got to where we are today is fresh in my mind.

      Decatur, in my opinion, does a pretty good job of gathering public input into the plan itself and then trying to follow the dictates of said plan. Rarely does a Decatur plan just gather dust on a shelf.

    2. We have what’s called a “weak mayoral system,” where the mayor is basically chairman of the board, which oversees the professionals (headed by the City Manager) who basically run city operations. It’s a professionalized, and relatively depoliticized system. It’s still highly political, of course, and someone with considerable political skills, such as Bill Floyd, can make it a powerful position. And Floyd did just that, despite the fact that he thinks the mayor’s authority should be strengthened by making it a popularly elected post.

      I too wonder how healthy it is to have nearly every vote be unanimous. It’s more healthy for boards as such than it is for democratic politics. In the case of the Decatur commission, consistant unanimity is connected to this professionalized model, but has more specifically to do with the culture of the board (commission), and the typically high level of deference of the Decatur voters in City matters.

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