A sign on Highway 77 welcomes people to Chipley. The town and Washington County are seeing growth and economic development, including new businesses opening. County Planning Commission Chairman John Gay said he expects growth to occur along the 77 corridor. [COLLIN BREAUX | The News]

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An election date of Sept. 2–and Sept. 24, if necessary for runoffs–has been set for seats on the Chipley City Council.

The City Council approved the dates as presented by staff during a meeting on Tuesday, May 14.

Up for grabs are Ward 1, Ward 4, and the member-at-large seat. Ward 1 and the member-at-large seats are currently held by Kevin Russell and Linda Cain, respectively.

The Ward 4 seat has been vacated after the resignation of former Councilmember Brett Butler, who announced his resignation via a letter read out by Mayor Tracy Andrews during the meeting. No reason was given.

Butler only served for the previous month’s meetings and replaced former Ward 4 Councilmember Kristin Martin, who also resigned at the start of this year due to that decision being “in the best interest of my family and myself,” according to her own resignation letter.

The qualifying dates for candidates are July 8-12.

Currently, City Council terms are for two years. However, some on the City Council discussed potentially expanding the term for four years.

“I know last year at election time we talked about the concept of putting it before the public to turn this from a two-year position to a four-year position,” Russell said.

City Administrator Patrice Tanner said she spoke with City Attorney Michelle Jordan and there is additional research Jordan will need to do to determine how to move forward with expanding the term length.

“Really, you all can give me some direction if you want that to go to referendum or not,” Jordan said. “We have to actually adopt that by ordinance. I have to draft the ballot language for that. You can put it on the ballot in September.”

The ordinance can be approved prior to qualifying week, Tanner said. 

“I guess the question is if there happens to not be an election because we do not have more than one person running for each seat, does the Council still want to go to the expense of having the election for just that item?” Tanner said.

Andrews said the term expansion is important.

“We brought it up last year some time because two years is not an easy task but four years will allow an individual to flourish a little bit in that particular role and to be able to see all the facets of the city versus the one year and then you’re having to go back into qualifying again,” Andrews said.

The City has to plan for an election “every single year,” Russell said.

“You’ve got terms and then you turn into a situation with all these grants,” Russell said. “A grant, baseline, is two years. Well, you put someone in who starts a grant and they get beat. Two years later, you’ve got a brand-new person who comes in and has no clue what those grants are about.”

Money spent on elections could be saved, Tanner said.

“We’re spending money every year to prepare for an election as far as paperwork, printing all the qualifying stuff,” Russell said.

 Cain said the public will have to be educated about the potential changes. 

In other Chipley government news, Public Works Director Guy Lane was named the assistant city administrator. He will be able to fill in for Tanner when she is on vacation or otherwise unable to perform city administrator duties.