SSU professor gives perspective on Savannah city council shakeup

SSU professor gives perspective on Savannah city council shakeup

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - A new mayor and seven of the eight alderman seats will have new representation. It’s a shakeup Savannah hasn’t seen in years.

Voters sent a strong message to City Hall - they weren’t happy with the leadership. But what exactly motivated them to unseat the mayor and seven aldermen?

“I can’t think of another time when this many seats changed hands, so it was a remarkable night," said Dr. Bruce Mallard, SSU Political Science Professor. "You had the mayor, an incumbent defeated in the runoff. The challenger got 62 percent of the vote. Pretty impressive. A 20-year incumbent on the City Council yesterday lost. So seven out of eight seats is an amazing turnover, and I think it was quite a night.”

Savannah State University Political science professor Dr. Bruce Mallard says the message is: voters are fed up.

“Frustration with taxation and the financial condition of the city. The whole fire fee came along. People didn’t like it, but they agreed to it, and then the city said never mind we don’t need it. Then the city had a surplus, and then they didn’t have a surplus anymore Raise taxes and then didn’t need to raise taxes,” Mallard said.

Also, a revolving door of top leadership only added fuel to that growing sentiment. With some big decisions ahead and so many new faces - the learning curve will be steep.

Something Mayor Elect and longtime alderman Van Johnson acknowledged after his win.

“Getting together, making sure they’re properly oriented, and working with them. And I’m asking that the public also don’t come in expect first-day miracles. We all have to learn each other, and I’m just looking forward to the opportunity of working with them, serving them and leading them, as well,” Johnson said.

Johnson said he plans to set the tone for unity. And it’s something that we even heard last night in the concession speeches of the losing incumbents.

Professor Mallard noted the willingness of Mayor Eddie DeLoach and Tony Thomas to help their winning opponents navigate City Hall.

That unity is something he said will be needed as the council faces some big decisions early next year - like hiring a new city manager.

The official inauguration of the new mayor and council will take place on January 2nd. The ceremony will begin at 7 p.m. at the Savannah Civic Center.

Copyright 2019 WTOC. All rights reserved.