The newly elected officials of the Macon-Bibb County consolidated government got together Friday for the first time.
Meeting at the Middle Georgia Regional Commission office, the nine commissioners and Mayor Robert Reichert got a quick overview of the work done so far by the task force working on consolidation. This was the first of 10 such meetings scheduled before the end of the year.
Commissioners Gary Bechtel, Bert Bivins, Ed DeFore, Mallory Jones, Elaine Lucas, Larry Schlesinger, Warren Scotty Shepherd, Al Tillman and Virgil Watkins were all present, along with about half of the 15-member task force. Everyone present expressed general optimism for the future and a determination to return Macon-Bibb to the status of Middle Georgias hub city.
I have worked for consolidation since 1974, and I am so proud that our community has finally decided this is something that we wanted to do, task force member Pearlie Toliver said.
Reichert noted that the merger will make Macon-Bibb the states fourth-largest city by population. He told the gathered officials that the scheduled meetings are a chance for them to learn firsthand what the task force had been doing for roughly 18 months, and ask why some decisions were made in a particular way.
For him, he said, its also a chance to thank the task force members for their work. Of the new city-county officials, only Reichert is also a member of the task force.
Laura Mathis, the regional commissions deputy director, said consultants will come to future meetings to tell the new officials about the detailed work thats been done on pension systems, personnel policies and a reconciled code of ordinances. Commissioners were given copies of documents the task force has already worked on, and Mathis said this gave them the chance to recommend any changes they would like to see made before the new government is asked to formally adopt them.
Reichert proposed an 11th meeting of the group: a group swearing-in around 11 a.m. Dec. 31, so there will be no lapse in governing authority when city and county structures are replaced at the end of the year. If commissioners keep to the current city-county meeting schedule, their first regular meeting would come Jan. 7.
Tillman and Watkins said theyd prefer a ceremony on the evening of Dec. 30, so family and friends could attend more easily, while Bivins suggested the evening of the Dec. 31.
The actual time is yet to be set, but a formal ceremony can be held at any later time, Reichert said.