City to Study Charter Amendment, Single-Member Districts

City Attorney Scott Gerken

City Attorney Scott Gerken

Fruitland Park — Fruitland Park commissioners gave the go-ahead Thursday night to look at whether the city should amend its charter to allow single-member districts.

City attorney Scott Gerken and interim city manager Rick Conner raised the question at Thursday night’s commission meeting.

“Municipalities typically review their charters periodically,” Gerken said. “There are a number of items in the charter that are outdated and I can’t remember the last time Fruitland Park’s charter was reviewed,” he said.

Gerken has served as city attorney for 10 years. None of the commissioners—including 21-year veteran John Gunter, Mayor Chris

Bell, who has served for 20 years, and Vice Mayor Sharon Kelly, who has served for 16 years—could remember either.

Under the city’s current charter the mayor and four commissioners are elected at large.

“The way it works now, voters could elect all four commissioners and a mayor who all live on the same street,” Gerken said.

Under single-member districts, commissioners are elected by voters each respective district. Typically the mayor would continue to be elected at large.

District lines would have to be drawn to accommodate a proportionate number of residents in each district, Gerken said. In some municipalities district lines are drawn to accommodate representation by minority populations living in contiguous or close-by neighborhoods.

Any amendment to the city’s charter would require a public vote, most likely next November when two city commissioners are expected to run for reelection.

Commissioners agreed that staff should research the feasibility of appointing a charter review committee to gather public input and recommend specific charter amendments.

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