The historic referendum vote to change Nolensville’s form of government passed on Thursday night.
The issue passed 1,910 to 731 for a total of 2,641 votes cast and will change the town's charter and structure from a mayor-aldermanic system to a city manager-commission system.
One significant difference between the two systems of government is the power given to the mayor, who currently acts as the town's CEO. Under the new charter the mayor will act in a more ceremonial position.
The new system of government, which can be compared to the nearby City of Brentwood, will have a mayor who is appointed by a majority vote from commissioners, but the day-to-day power and responsibility of running the town will lie with a city manager.
Currently Donald Anthony serves in the role of Town Administrator which is comparable to a city manager. There has been no indication given that his role will be challenged with any replacement.
Anthony was recently hired to fill the long-vacant position, having previously served as the Town Planner. Since his appointment to Town Administrator, he has received praise from BOMA and citizens alike.
Daniel Hadaway, Treasurer for the Committee For a Better Nolensville, also known as For Nolensville, issued a prepared statement on the passage of the referendum that he and a team of Nolensville community members have worked to make a reality since the spring.
"We are thrilled by the results of today’s election," the statement reads. "The citizens of Nolensville have spoken, and it is clear they are ready for change. Today’s victory is a true testament to the power of individual citizens coming together and deciding to 'do something' about issues they care about.
"We also acknowledge the time and effort people on both sides of this issue have dedicated to research, educate, and campaign on behalf of their beliefs. With what appears to be a record voter turnout for an August election- it is clear that many people feel strongly about our great town and its future.
"We look forward to the bright future Nolensville has with this new charter, and are excited for the upcoming special election for our first-ever Board of Commissioners."
Now any candidates who want to run in the special election must register with the Williamson County Election Commission by Aug. 11.
The new charter must also be certified by the Election Commission followed by the election of all five commissioners in September. Current aldermen who want a seat in the new government must also run for those seats.
The subject of a charter change has been a hot topic both within BOMA and among citizens, with notable opposition from Mayor Jimmy Alexander.
Other members of BOMA have spoken out against the effort, raising questions over the town's ability to collect impact fees after a meeting with the University of Tennessee's Municipal Technical Advisory Service earlier in the year.
Now the challenges of actually implementing a new form of government and any potential pitfalls will become more clear in the coming weeks.
GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS REACT
The election results came in during Thursday night’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen meeting and prompted several BOMA members to address the passage of the referendum.
“Congratulations to everybody that signed the petition and voted for this thing and congratulations to Nolensville,” Alderman Derek Adams said in the meeting.
Adams raised the idea of a change in government structure to combat dysfunction and characterized the town as one has outgrown its government. He championed the issue and supported citizens in their effort.
Adams issued a statement in addition to his BOMA public comments via text on Thursday night.
"The mayor-aldermanic charter and all those that worked within that system did well to get us to where we are today," Adams said. "Nolensville is turning a corner and have now adopted a system that provides for better representation and a more efficient and responsive government to the good people of Nolensville.”
Alderwoman Wendy Cook-Mucci did not support the charter change, but over the past few months, she has spearheaded attempts to adapt the current charter to meet the needs of the town. She said that she's glad to be in a community that can have grassroots efforts and make significant changes, and called for unity in the days ahead.
"Tomorrow we will wake up after these election results and we will decide how we move forward and how we treat each other and to be kind and to work for progress and to work together," Cook-Mucci said.
"How we work together is often just as important as the outcome and so I'm looking forward to a community that will stop seeing sides. There are not sides, there are issues and we have to work together."
Alderman Russell Gill, who was voted into the BOMA seat in July to fill the position left vacant by long-time Alderman Larry Felts, said that the vote was not a rebuke of the town's staff, who he praised.
Gill also added that it was the leadership of people like Felts, Vice Mayor Tommy Dugger and Mayor Alexander, all of whom have served the town longest, that helped to get Nolensville to where it is today.
Vice Mayor Dugger spoke about the accomplishments of elected officials on behalf of the town, while Mayor Alexander did not issue any comment on the vote.
"Being the first elected [Board of] Mayor and Aldermen, we served our first term for zero dollars," Dugger said during the BOMA meeting. "I would encourage the next form of government to do the same."
"We created the town from zero, with zero dollars," Dugger continued. "We realigned Sam Donald Road, we realigned Clovercroft [Road] using impact fees, excuse me, we realigned Rocky Fork Road using impact fees and [added] a light at Rocky Fork Road and Clovercorft [Road], a light at Sunset [Road]. We worked with Metro [Nashville] sewer and the property owners to get the sewer through the Historic District.
"We have design standards and a design review board, a trail system that's going to top anybody's trail system before it's over thanks to the Trees and Trails [Committee]. We built a Town Hall and the Rec Center and we redid Sunset Road, so I think we left the next form of government, whether I'm a part of it or not, I think we've left them in pretty good shape," Dugger said.
About an hour after the result of the vote came in, Anthony, in his weekly Town Administrator update, addressed the future of Nolensville.
“When I interviewed for the Town Administrator position in May, I shared my belief that we should prepare to hand-off a forward-moving, forward-thinking government to a new Board should the citizens of Nolensville choose to change the Town’s charter," Anthony wrote.
"Today, the citizens chose to adopt a City Manager-Commission form of government. Within a few weeks, a new Board of Commissioners will assume responsibility for governing the Town; that Board will hire Nolensville’s first Town Manager.
“As the Town begins this historic transition, I think it is important to review the initiatives we have advanced over the last several months. My hope is that these actions lay a firm groundwork for the Town’s new structure and Board of Commissioners. I know that all of us—BOMA members, staff, and Nolensville’s citizens—want the new government to be successful.”
The final tally of the vote is listed by the Williamson County Election Commission as an 'unofficial' number until the vote is certified by the state, which is a routine procedure that is expected to be completed in the coming weeks.
The Williamson Home Page will have continued coverage of the Nolensville referendum and what it means for the future of the small but growing town.