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City election qualifying to start Wednesday

When Brookhaven offices reopen Wednesday after the long holiday weekend, citizens eyeing a post in city government may begin qualifying to run in upcoming municipal elections.

     Forms to launch a campaign for this year’s Brookhaven elections may be obtained at the office of City Clerk Mike Jinks in the Lincoln County/Brookhaven Government Complex.

     Qualifying forms must be submitted by March 8.

     Party primaries take place May 7 with runoffs on May 21 if needed. The general election occurs June 4.

     Posts up for grabs during municipal elections include mayor, police chief, city clerk, alderman at large and an alderman seat for each of the city’s six wards.

     “We’re ready,” said Deputy Clerk Marsha Fairman Friday afternoon, indicating qualifying forms neatly stacked, papers clipped and placed on a counter for easy access. “Bring them on in.”

     To qualify as a candidate, citizens must be registered voters living in Brookhaven. Someone seeking to run for alderman of a ward must live in the ward they’re hoping to represent.

     A $10 fee made out to the Republican or Democratic parties must be submitted alongside qualifying paperwork to run as a candidate of either party and participate in the appropriate primary. Fairman said the clerk’s office prefers the fee be paid by check.

     To qualify as an independent candidate, residents must submit a petition signed by 50 registered voters of the city. Independent candidates will appear on the general election ballot but skip the primary process.

     Even as qualifying cranks up, uncertainty over the city’s ward lines threatens to shadow city elections.

     Brookhaven must redraw its ward lines to equalize the population of each ward using data from the 2010 census, but a proposed map of new ward lines has not yet been approved by the U.S. Justice Department.

     A verdict was originally expected by Dec. 27, but has been pushed back because the Justice Department requested additional information from the city, said the city’s attorney Joe Fernald.

     Fernald said he’s now expecting word from the Justice Department by Jan. 8.

     With ambiguity about what ward lines will be used for the election, potential candidates may not know what ward they will live in.

     If the Justice Department preclears the submitted plan by Jan. 8, there shouldn’t be a problem, Fernald said. There’s still plenty of time between Jan. 8 and the qualifying deadline of March 8.

     “We are going to know within a reasonable time,” Fernald said.

     If the Justice Department rejects the plan as submitted, Fernald is uncertain how candidate qualifying and the subsequent elections would be impacted.

     “I wouldn’t want to speculate until I know what the Justice Department action is,” he said.

     The offices of mayor, alderman at large, police chief and city clerk are voted on citywide and won’t be affected by ward lines.

     Current citywide incumbents include Les Bumgarner as mayor, City Clerk Mike Jinks, Police Chief Pap Henderson and Karen Sullivan, the current alderman at large.

     Current ward aldermen are Ward One’s Dorsey Cameron, Ward Two’s Terry Bates, Ward Three’s Mary Wilson, Shirley Estes of Ward Four, D.W. Maxwell of Ward Five and David Phillips, representing Ward Six.

     Current officials will hold office until June 30. Newly elected officials take office July 1.

     Elected city officials serve four-year terms.