WARNER ROBINS -- Mayor Chuck Shaheen announced Tuesday he will seek an at-large council position in November instead of the mayor’s seat.
Shaheen, at times tearing up, made the announcement in a 10-minute speech in front of about 60 supporters gathered at McCall’s Tastes to Remember in Commercial Circle. He said he wants to run for the Post 1 council seat, currently held by Mike Daley, with the objective of supporting the next mayor.
“By doing that, we can build a team and move our city forward,” Shaheen said. “It gives me the opportunity to go back into the private sector and still do public service.”
Daley has not announced whether he will seek re-election and said in a phone conversation Tuesday that “today is Chuck’s day.” He said he would state his intentions for the general election soon. Of Shaheen’s announcement, Daley said:
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“I think that is great news. It’s great news for our citizens and for our employees.”
Retired fireman Charlie Scott said in June he intended to run for the Post 1 seat.
Qualifying begins Monday.
Shaheen narrowly won the mayor’s post in a 2009 runoff against Chuck Chalk in the aftermath of long-term Mayor Donald Walker’s suicide.
“I believe that in 2009, when I heard from the people, the people wanted a strong mayor figurehead. We needed it at that time,” Shaheen said. “In 2013, what the people want now is a councilman and a council to work with the mayor to move our city forward.”
Shaheen and council have not always agreed, but as mayor he has seen a new law enforcement center to completion, and the city donated land to the state for a training center for veterans.
Shaheen pointed to the city’s ability to make it through the tail-end of a recession without laying anyone off and ability to maintain a budget. He gave much of the credit to the city employees.
“I will be passing on the mayoral torch to someone new, who I hope will embrace the city and learn from its citizens the way I have had the privilege to do over the past four years,” Shaheen said.
Chalk, former firefighter Randy Toms, Public Works Director Joe Musselwhite and Councilmen Mike Brashear and Daron Lee have announced they intend to run for the mayor’s seat.
“The next mayor will need a transition and someone to help him, and I want to support that transition in the most constructive way possible,” Shaheen said.
Shaheen, 52, took a leave of absence from a pharmaceutical company to be mayor. He said he isn’t sure what company he would return to but wants to continue working on building his retirement fund.
If Shaheen wins the council seat, he will be the second mayor in city history to be a councilman after being mayor, according to Warner Robins Heritage Society member Alex Talley. Talley said Homer J. Walker ran for council after taking a few years off from public life following his mayoral term.
Amy Henderson, spokeswoman for the Georgia Municipal Association, said it’s uncommon for sitting mayors to seek council positions.
“Sometimes, there are mayors who leave (the position) and years later come back to run for council,” she said.
Henderson said some sitting mayors have been surprised about the position’s lack of decision-making authority and have resigned after elections.
Most city governments are weak-mayor forms of government, typically with the mayor’s position being more ceremonial. However, Warner Robins is one of four strong-mayor forms of government statewide, allowing the mayor to serve as the chief executive officer.
Shaheen said Tuesday that the mayor no longer has that much authority because the powers have been stripped away over the years. He said voters should be able to decide whether to change the charter.
“You either got to vote to have a full-time mayor or a part-time mayor, right in the middle’s not going to work,” he said.
Earlier this year, some council members proposed changing the mayor’s position to part time and adding a city manager. At the time, Shaheen said he was in favor of a city administrator or chief operating officer to be added as assistance to the full-time mayor.
To contact writer Christina M. Wright, call 256-9685.