Mayor Joe Walter plans to step down at the end of his first and only two-year term in office, he announced in front of fellow city council members and citizens at Wednesday's monthly city council meeting.
“A lot of people who know me already know that I do not plan to run for another term as mayor, and I just want to make the announcement official,” Walter said. “I have thoroughly enjoyed it. I have learned more in the last year and a half than I did my previous five years on city council, more - I know more - than my four years in college. It's been a seriously rewarding experience.”
Walter will finish out his term in December, but made the announcement, hoping a qualified candidate will emerge to take his spot, just as he did in 2010 when former Mayor Jim Luken left after finishing an unexpected third term.
“I ended up throwing my hat in the ring when no one else did, so I kind of became mayor by default I suppose,” Walter said.
The job of mayor, he's learned, is a full-time job, and he is looking forward to spending more time with family, he said.
“My wife and I are at that age where we just want to spend some time together, do some things together, plus I've got four grandchildren that I'd like to see a little bit more of,” Walter said.
So far, no one has come forward with any serious plans of running for Mayor, according to Walter and other city council members.
Shortly after Walter's announcement, city council member Brian Brodrick proposed a motion the city council re-examine the mayor's wage, which runs $7,200 a year and hasn't changed in more than 15 years.
Over the past few years, the mayor has taken on more responsibilities, from managing the day-to-day operations of a city of 2,700 people, new sales tax projects, overseeing a police force as well as zoning and economic development, Brodrick said.
“It' a big job, and I think the job has grown exponentially over the last eight years” Brodrick said. “As of tonight we have no incumbent, we have no announced candidates so I think we should put the wheels in motion to consider a raise for the Office of the Mayor.”
Brodrick suggested the council consider raising the mayor's salary to $15,000 in fiscal year 2013, and to $22,000 – the average pay of a commissioner in Oconee County – the following fiscal year.
“I'm not making this decision lightly,” Brodrick said. “I know it's always hard to suggest an elected official deserves a raise, but I think the Office of the Mayor of Watkinsville absolutely deserves more money and I'm just concerned with the demands we make for that office now, if we don't address this we're going to have trouble attracting qualified candidates in the future.”
City officials agreed to discuss raising the mayor's salary at the council's August meeting before municipal qualifying for the November election begins Aug. 29.
In other business, the city council approved:
Business licenses for Baseline Surveying and Engineering, Inc. at 31 N. Main Street, The Salon on First at 6 First St., and Land Design Consultants, Inc. at 1210 Jacob Dr.
A rezone request for Tifosi Optics from corridor commercial to employment center.
- New salary schedules for city personnel.