Ludowici residents will have to wait for a decision on when an election will be held to fill City Council vacancies.
On Wednesday at the Long County Courthouse, Superior Court Judge D. Jay Stewart heard both sides of the issue on when a Ludowici election should be held to fill two vacant seats on the council. But after a meeting with three of the witnesses, he decided to wait on making decision.
In August, Ludowici residents Janis Goode and Price Chapman Jr. filed a writ of mandamus against the city of Ludowici, Mayor James Fuller and the council claiming that districts 3 and 4 had been without representation long enough, and that the city needed to hold an election. The 3rd District seat has been vacant since May, while the 4th District seat has been vacant since September.
On Wednesday — with Goode, Chapman, Fuller and council members present — Stewart heard both sides of the issue. Though the courthouse had around 20 people present to listen to the case, Stewart surprised everyone when he took Goode, Chapmen and City Attorney Joe Kitchings into his chambers. After meeting with them for a little less than an hour, the session was over.
Goode said that she presented Stewart with documentation from the Georgia Secretary of State’s office and Sen. Tommie Williams stating that an election could be held in the city, and that redistricting was not required for the election to be held. Chapman said that he told the judge that by not requiring an election to replace the two vacant city-council seats, the city was disenfranchising the citizens due to them not having representation. Kitchings said that the city wanted to have an election, but that the mayor and council were being prudent in holding off on doing so after this was recommended by the Long County Board of Elections and as a result of the problems that the county is going through.
All three said that Stewart told them that he would not yet make a decision on the matter, but that he was “taking it under advisement.”
“I’m feeling good right now. (Stewart) said that he wants to read the (city) charter and take it under advisement, but from the way he was talking, I believe that we will have an election in March,” Goode said.
Chapman said he was satisfied.
“The judge was very fair and impartial to both sides, and I believe that he will make the right decision according to the law,” he said.
They also said that he did not give them a timeframe on when he would make his ruling, but that as soon as he does, he will notify all parties involved.
“All the city has wanted to do from the beginning was to do the right thing in a judicious and wise manner,” Kitchings said. “We want to have an election as soon as possible, but we don’t want any problem to arise like the county is facing now. The city will comply with whatever decision the judge makes.”