BLADENBORO — The voters in Bladenboro have voted resoundingly to change the form of governance from council-manager to mayor-council.
The mood was one of anticipation and curiosity as folks from other towns gathered at the Bladen County Board of Elections in Elizabethtown to await the results of their respective races, but the oft discussed item of the evening was the referendum to change Bladenboro's form of governance.
The town had operated under the current council-manager form of government since Feb. 10, 2003. Mayoral candidate Rufus Duckworth III circulated the petition to place the item on the ballot.
“I started it at the request of several citizens,” said Duckworth of the referendum.
Before Tuesday's municipal election, the town of Bladenboro had operated under a council-manager form of government to provide the necessary services and to carry out the duties of the town spelled out under N.C. General Statute 160A-148. Before Tuesday, the makeup of the town's governing body consisted of a town council, a mayor and a town manager.
Jan Maynor, regional planning director for the Lumber River Council of Government, said that the next steps for the town council will be to determine whether or not they will hire a town administrator.
“They are not going to have a (town) manager anymore,” said Maynor.
She said also that the council will have some leeway in determining how to deal with department heads. Under the North Carolina General Statutes there are three distinct different forms that the council can choose from:
— The entire council supervises all the departments;
— One council member is assigned to supervise a department;
— The council can set up committees to supervise the departments.
Maynor said the council also has the option decide whether or not to have a town administrator or not. If the council chooses to hire a town administrator, the council will decide what duties and powers he or she will be given. She added that one big difference between the two forms of governments is that under the manager-council form of government the town manager's duties and responsibilities are enumerated in the general statutes.
“They will have to go back and amend their town charter. I'm assuming their charter was changed to recognize the manager-council form of government,” said Maynor.
The town of Belville was the last town in the region to change their form of government.
Messages left seeking comment from Bladenboro Town Mananger Delane Jackson were unreturned as of press time.