WALKER — The Walker City Council approved a plan Monday to carve the city into three council districts and reduce the number of at-large seats to two.
The council also pulled a proposal to de-annex a section of Interstate 12 from the Middle Colyell Creek bridge to the Satsuma interchange. Mayor Rick Ramsey said the proposed ordinance will be moved to next month’s agenda to give the Satsuma incorporation issue time to resolve.
The plan to convert the five-member council to a district-dominated board won the approval Monday night of four councilmen who all lived on the southwest side of town, in what will become District 3, during the 2012 election.
Councilwoman Scarlett Major, the lone vote against the proposal, said switching from an at-large system to districts could punish future candidates for being neighbors and limit choices for voters in certain areas of the city.
“I just don’t feel like we’re big enough to be divided,” Major said of the city.
Councilman Gary Griffin said he believes the council members work hard to represent all of the city equally, but he said he also understands why some residents may feel they are not equally represented on the board.
“I can see pros and cons with anything like this, and I think I’m just of a mindset there may be a little more pros than cons,” Griffin said.
Ramsey said as a mayor who runs essentially at-large, he felt it was not a decision he should make, but he brought the idea to the board because someone had approached him about it in 2001, when Ramsey was on the board. Many of the then-town’s aldermen also lived in the southern part of the city, he said.
The plan will go to the U.S. Department of Justice for approval, out of an abundance of caution, despite a 2013 U.S. Supreme Court decision that removed that stipulation of the Voting Rights Act, Ramsey said.
Each of the three council districts will have a population between 1,150 and 1,300, Ramsey said.
District 1 would include the areas north and west of the intersection of U.S. 190 and La. 447, up to Hodges Lane, and a section south of U.S. 190 between Fletcher Lane and Gaylord Road.
District 2 would include everything east of District 1, as well as north of Hodges Lane.
District 3 would include everything south and west of District 1, plus the interstate to Satsuma.
Major said she hoped Walker residents will continue to feel comfortable calling upon any council member for help.
“I hope we’d all be answerable to the whole city, not just to certain areas,” she said.
Follow Heidi R. Kinchen on Twitter, @HeidiRKinchen. Contact her at (225) 336-6981.