Change of government petition drive underway in OS

Published: Aug. 22, 2016 at 8:57 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 23, 2016 at 9:54 AM CDT
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OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - Ocean Springs business leader George Conwill is heading up the signature drive.  He believes a city manager form of government is more efficient and would free up Mayor Connie Moran for other duties.

"Gives her time to be out in front, promoting the city, being at all the openings, being the figurehead and the face of Ocean Springs and allows someone who is a professional to manage the city," Conwill explained.

But the mayor thinks something else is in play by some of the aldermen.

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

If change comes, Ocean Springs won't be alone, according to Conwill.

"There's over 3,000 communities and cites that use this nationwide, about 82 million people operate under this type of system of government."

The mayor counters that with her own figures.

"It's only six other cities in the entire state that have a city manager form of government, and there are lot of revolving doors."

Conwill said the move for change does have some support from citizens.

"I think they realize that yeah, we have grown. We want to continue to grow and this is a more professional way to run a city. And I think they want that. I think we're ready to make that change."

But the mayor says that change could come at a cost.

"In a city manager form of government, the city manager does all the hiring and firing, presents the budget. I don't know if the aldermen really understand that because right now, they have that power. They would be ceding that power to the city manager."

The mayor is also thinking of starting her own petition to change the form of government to a strong mayor council form of government, which would give her a vote. And besides that, she also has this to say about any change.

"Ocean Springs continues to win national accolades, we are a festival town, we've got a great quality of life. Is it broke? Should we fix it?  If it ain't broke, don't fix it."

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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