Final Macon/Bibb consolidation task force members announced

The last five members of the panel that will guide city and county consolidation are now known.

They join 10 others for a task that must start by Sept. 1: working out ordinances under which the Macon-Bibb County government will operate after Jan. 1, 2014.

The first 10 were ex-officio members, identified in House Bill 1171, which Bibb County voters approved July 31. The remaining five were appointed by the local legislative delegation.

They are Bill Underwood, president of Mercer University; Pearlie Toliver, retired vice president of BB&T and vice chair of the Macon Housing Authority board; Roy Fickling, president of Fickling & Co.; Jeffery Monroe, partner at the law firm Jones, Cork & Miller; and state Sen. Miriam Paris.

Paris is a former president of Macon City Council. She served one term in the state Senate and just lost a close runoff to former state Rep. David Lucas.

“I think it’s going to be great to be involved with the transition team -- to make sure that the employees are protected, and the transition is one that is as smooth as we can possibly get it,” she said.

Paris supported consolidation, but she said she wasn’t at the Wednesday afternoon meeting where the final five were chosen.

“I did not seek to be on it,” she said.

Monroe said he didn’t campaign for inclusion on the committee either, but he has been one of the leading backers of the measure.

“I was a part of the executive committee for the consolidation effort,” Monroe said. “I think it was the thing to do to move this community forward.”

Voters in Payne City, Macon and Bibb County approved consolidation by an overall margin of about 57 percent to 43 percent. The new nine-member commission and countywide mayor will be elected in November 2013 and take office at the start of 2014.

Section 37 of House Bill 1171 specifies that the 15-member transition task force will work on “planning and preparing for the assumption of governmental powers by the restructured governing authority.”

It specifies that holders of certain offices will fill 10 of the seats, including that the chairperson of the local legislative delegation will also chair the task force; and that Macon’s mayor and Bibb County’s commission chairperson will serve as co-chief executive officers.

The specified officials are Bibb County Commission Chairman Sam Hart; Elmo Richardson, chairman of the Bibb County finance committee; Macon Mayor Robert Reichert; Tom Ellington, chairman of the city’s Finance committee; James Timley, president of Macon City Council; Greater Macon Chamber of Commerce board President Leonard Bevill; Macon Police Chief Mike Burns; and Bibb County Sheriff Jerry Modena.

The task force will be led by state Rep. Nikki Randall, the delegation’s chair, and vice chair Sen. Cecil Staton. The inaugural meeting is expected to be held within the next two weeks.

The five remaining members were to be appointed by General Assembly members representing any part of Bibb County.

“We are grateful that so many Macon-Bibb citizens were interested in serving in this monumental body,” Randall said in a statement. “There were countless, very capable individuals that were nominated. However, the charter allows us to select only five.”

Paris said she thinks the delegation did a good job of choosing people who will represent the community well, even if their specific roles have yet to be settled.

“Right now I’m just waiting until we all get together and see where I can be the most assistance on the team,” she said.

Monroe said he wants to work on making the transition as seamless as possible, though inevitably some things will take time to smooth out.

His foremost goal is to keep the task force’s work as open to the public as possible, he said. The more people know about how the new government is being organized, the more likely they are to trust the process and become involved, Monroe said. That will serve to make the new government’s operation smoother once it’s established, he said.

Telegraph staff writer Oby Brown contributed to this report. To contact writer Jim Gaines call 744-4489.