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At Call of the Wards on May 29, Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th ward, asked for a binding referendum in which voters would be asked to approve a change in the way the City Clerk is selected from an elected office to an appointed position. The matter will be referred to the City’s Rules Committee for debate.
The Clerk’s position, long a routine office handing administrative duties relatively free of controversy, has been thrust into the spotlight following the election of Devon Reid in 2017. Supporters of Mr. Reid claim the City has attacked Mr. Reid, a 25-year-old African American, for bringing new ideas to the office.
Some members of City Council, on the other hand, have challenged decisions to release certain information on the City’s Freedom of information Act website. Some of the primary functions of the office prior to Mr. Reid’s tenure, including the processing of real estate transfer stamps, passport applications, and mail distribution, have been shifted out of the office by mutual agreement.
Mr. Reid has said functions such as real estate transfer stamp processing were not statutorily required functions of the office and belonged in the City Collector’s office anyway. He has focused his energy on voter registration and civic engagement.
Even if Council decides to place the matter before the voters via referendum, a vote would likely not change the Clerk’s current four-year term. Rather, once the term has been served, the next Clerk would be elected or appointed by either the Mayor or the City Manager, depending on the contents of the referendum question and the outcome of the referendum.
Mr. Reid’s predecessor, Rodney Greene, was appointed to the position by then-Mayor Lorraine Morton in 2008. The appointment came as the result of the resignation of the previous clerk, Mary Morris. Mr. Greene then stood for election and was elected twice – in 2009 and 2013 – before being unseated by Mr. Reid in 2017.