City to Set Charter Review Committee

Commissioner Sharon Kelly

Commissioner Sharon Kelly

Fruitland Park city commissioners Thursday night are expected to move toward establishing a charter review committee that could substantially change the way city government operates and prevent The Villages from gaining too much power over local politics.

The charter is the key governing document that enumerates the powers of the mayor, commissioners, governing and advisory boards and is somewhat similar to the U.S. Constitution.

Vice Mayor Sharon Kelly said she supports the concept of a charter review committee, but won’t decide which way to vote until she reads the text of the establishing resolution. However, she said she expects the resolution to pass.

“Several things in our current charter are just outmoded,” Kelly said. “It hasn’t been reviewed in more than a decade and maybe longer, and I know commissioners are seriously considering the value of establishing single-member districts,” she said.

All four commissioners addressed the possibility of single-member districts at

the commission’s Oct. 10 meeting. Single-member districts would change how city residents elect their commissioners, dividing the city into separate districts that each elect one commissioner.

This would prevent a large block of voters — such as 4,000 new residents expected to arrive within 12 months in the proposed Villages of Fruitland Park — from dominating local politics by stacking the commission with board members of their choice. The city’s population now is just over 4,000.

According to the resolution before the board Thursday night, Mayor Chris Bell will appoint five charter review committee members who are subject to the approval of the city commission. The committee will be charged with responsibility for reviewing the city’s charter — copies of which are available from the city clerk — and make written recommendations to the city commission.

All charter review committee meetings must be advertised beforehand and open to the public, Kelly said. The committee will hold at least one meeting specifically to hear suggestions from residents.

The committee will have 180 days — six months — to report its recommendations.

Any recommended changes will have to go before the voters, perhaps as early as next November, when two commission seats will be on the ballot.

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