Stockbridge could end up being run by a city administrator instead of a mayor if some city officials get their way.
City leaders are seeking approval from state lawmakers to change the form of government and more clearly define the duties of the mayor and other officials.
The action is part of a deal reached recently to settle a lawsuit brought by the current mayor against the city council. Mayor Lee Stuart sued his fellow council members last year after his vetoes were continually overridden. Details of the settlement were not released.
"It's my hope we put our differences aside for the sake of the city and the citizens and move on," Stuart said.
Councilwoman Kathy Gilbert and others declined to discuss the city's latest action.
"Because of the legal situation surrounding the lawsuit with the mayor, the parties have agreed to settle the lawsuit in a way that allows the city of Stockbridge and its elected officials to move forward with the governance of the city," Gilbert said.
The effort is latest evidence of tension that began almost immediately after Stuart became mayor of the community of 24,000 in January 2010. Stuart, a 32-year military man who earned two purple hearts while in Vietnam, defeated R. G. "Rudy" Kelley, who led the city for nearly 30 years.
"I believe in being responsive to the citizens," said Stuart, who was urged by some Army buddies to run for mayor. "We aren't five anointed people. You have to listen to the people. Some of the old people don't like it."
Buddy Welch, an attorney with the Henry County law firm Smith Welch & Brittain, is drafting the job description for a city administrator.
If the resolution is approved by the Legislature, Stockbridge would join a growing number of cities moving toward a city manager form of government, said Amy Henderson of the Georgia Municipal Association.
"It's a fairly common form of government now in Georgia. It brings a degree of professionalism because you've got the city manager handling the day-to-day operations and that allows the mayor and the city council to be the policy setters." Currently, 197 of Georgia's 535 cities have a city manager or administrator.
But some observers say the push for a different form of government in this Henry County town is just another jab by Stockbridge's old guard at the current mayor.
"The citizens of Stockbridge elected the mayor and empowered him to administer the system," said Richard Steinberg, who represents the Concerned Citizens of Stockbridge, an advocacy group that pushes for transparency and fairness in city government.
"It's just a giant mess, " Steinberg added. "There's an election coming up in November for three (city council) seats. Incumbents are going to have significant challenge."
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