Brookhaven mayor will not get unlimited terms after failed referendum

The City of Brookhaven.
The City of Brookhaven.

Brookhaven voters denied to extend term limits for their city’s mayor, keeping the limit at two consecutive four-year terms.

Residents of the north DeKalb County city voted on a referendum to remove term limits for the mayor during Tuesday’s general election, but 55.1% of voters denied its passage. As of 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, 13,458 votes were cast against the referendum, while 10,960 residents voted for it, according to county data.

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The ballot measure was the result of a 2017 citizen-led charter review, which suggested that Brookhaven extend its mayor’s limits from two to three. Earlier this year, state lawmakers passed legislation that allowed voters to decide whether to eliminate term limits altogether.

The question on the ballot read: “Shall the section of the Act be approved which repeals the provision that limits the terms of the mayor of the City of Brookhaven to allow the voters of Brookhaven to choose the mayor of their choice?"

According to the 2018 analysis by the Georgia Municipal Association, only about 4% of Georgia cities have set mayoral term limits. Those cities tend to by larger, more urban cities, such as Atlanta, Savannah, Augusta and Macon. Alpharetta, Dunwoody and Peachtree City also limit their mayors to two four-year terms.

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As a result of the failed referendum, two-term Mayor John Ernst will not be eligible to run again in Brookhaven, which has a population of roughly 53,000 people. He supported the referendum but never explicitly said whether he would try to run for a third term if it passed.

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