The Ringgold City Council voted unanimously on July 13 to change its charter to require a vote of only four of the six members of the governing body — composed of the mayor and five council members — to remove the city manager from office.
The previous requirement was five votes.
In 2016, state Sen. Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga, helped pass a piece of legislation that made it more difficult for an elected body to fire a city manager by requiring a vote of the supermajority.
"I think what we're changing it to was perhaps the intent to begin with, but it might have been a misunderstanding between Senator Mullis and who was writing the actual bill," Mayor Nick Millwood said at the recent meeting.
Prior to 2016, he said, removal of the city manager required a simple- majority vote.
"It got changed without the council and public knowing, and I kind of raised a stink about it," said Millwood, who was mayor in 2016 when he discovered the change. "It's taken this long to convince enough people to support changing it to make it more equitable."
In a follow-up interview, Millwood said he thinks a change in the political landscape in 2016 was behind the change made by the state Legislature.
"Some people that were currently in power felt that different people getting elected was endangering the city manager's position, and the city manager's very popular with a lot of people around the area; he's an effective city manager," Millwood said in reference to Dan Wright, who has served in the role since 1993. "So it kind of got changed, like a backroom type deal, so we just now fixed that."
Councilors also voted unanimously to roll back the city's millage rate to 3.103 mills from the 2019 rate of 3.11 mills.
Had the city maintained the 2019 rate, it would have collected $743,732 in property taxes. The rolled back rate will reduce that amount by about $1,600, said City Manager Dan Wright. The average taxpayer will pay roughly the same amount they did last year.
Wright said the city's overall tax base has increased because of new construction and improvements, though by only $520,000 in reassessment value.
"That's why there's only .007 of a decrease in your rollback," he said.
Contact Emily Crisman at firstname.lastname@example.org. or 423-757-6508.