COVINGTON, Ga. - Covington Mayor Ronnie Johnston clarified during Monday night’s Covington City Council meeting that he was, in fact, in favor of term limits for councilmembers, however, he was not in favor of how they were originally presented.
The conversation of term limits was ignited by Councilman Kenneth Morgan during the council’s May 25 work session. He was in favor of a three-term limit, which would allow council members to qualify for retirement benefits. After the three terms, the person would be required to sit out for one term before running for reelection.
During the work session in a consensus vote, Johnston broke a tie between council members to vote down the term limit conversation.
Johnston said Monday night he thought three terms was too long. He said if the council would agree to a two-term limit he would be in favor of it. He also raised the idea of removing the retirement benefits for council members.
Johnston said he felt no current councilmembers should be grandfathered in, raising the point that he would not be allowed to qualify for re-election following his current term if the council agreed.
With that said, Councilman Chris Smith said there was no way he would agree to the two-term limit without grandfathering because it would mean all three of the council members up for election this year – which includes Smith, Councilwoman Ocie Franklin and Councilwoman Hawnethia Williams – would not be able to qualify for the election.
Under Johnston’s proposal, only Councilman Josh McKelvey and Councilman Kenneth Morgan would be allowed to qualify at the end of their terms.
Williams said it sounded like Johnston was trying to “rid the council” of its current members.
“The whole idea, to me, of talking about this, it’s just like the (expletive removed) president serves two four-year terms and I think there’s a reason for that, so I’m just putting that out there to say I believe in term limits,” Johnston said. “I don’t believe in just three terms because it would maximize the retirement. I think there’s got to be more to it than that.”
Councilman Michael Whatley, who has sat on the council since 2000, asked the Mayor to end the conversation and move on to the next agenda item. Whatley added that he was “adamant” that the retirement benefits stay in place for councilmembers.
The addition of the term limits discussion was added to the agenda by Johnston around 3 p.m. Monday. The meeting started at 6:30 p.m. that same day.
SEE RELATED: Covington agrees to no term limits