OS officials speak out on changing city's government

OS officials speak out on changing city's government
A current push is underway to switch to a new government style in Ocean Springs. (Photo source: WLOX)

OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - An initiative is underway in Ocean Springs to change the way the city's government is run but not everyone is on board with it.

If approved, the effort would change the current strong council-weak mayor form of government into a city manager-ran government. This would make the mayoral position a part-time one.

The group pushing for this change, which is led by business leader George Conwill, says it would be best for the city. Conwill says it would be more efficient and free up the mayor for other duties.

Mayor Connie Moran, however, disagrees. She says she is considering starting her own petition to change the government to a strong mayor council, which would give her a vote.

"Maybe changing the form of government and reducing my salary is their last ditch effort to make sure I don't have control," she said in an interview with WLOX.

While city alderman Mike Impey was initially in support of the movement, he says he has now changed his mind after researching it more.

Impey initially was in favor of the change, saying that it's nothing personal against the mayor and is about what's best for the city of Ocean Springs. However, according to a Facebook post made by the alderman on Thursday, he has changed his mind on the issue.

Impey says after researching the issue thoroughly and the changes that this new style of government would bring, he has concluded that it is not in the best interest of the city or its citizens.

The two reasons he says he cannot support it is because it would reduce the representation of the city's citizens and would be a costly and timely endeavor to switch to.

Impey's post went into more detail, providing background for his stance on the issue.

If a new city manager government was instituted, Impey says "it would reduce the number of alderman from seven to five and would require all five to be elected at large or reduce the wards to four and have one elected at large."

According to Impey, this is important because it could result in all five aldermen being elected from one geographic area instead of elected officials representing the areas where they reside.

Impey went on to say that implementing a new form of government would mean additional expenses for the city to hold a special election, as well as time and effort to redraw ward lines.

In a Facebook post made by Moran this week, she said the effort was "a way to undercut me personally."

She also called the new proposed form of government "one of the most politically VOLATILE forms of government, especially in a small town." Moran pointed out other cities on the coast who have tried a city manager-ran government, such as "the revolving door at Gautier, and political hotbed in Diamondhead."

However, before it could be approved, the initiative would have to be voted on by the residents of Ocean Springs.

City manager proponents hope to collect the needed 1,500 signatures on the petition by the end of the year.  If they do, a referendum would be held probably in February.  The next city elections will be held in June of next year.

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