District shifts drastic

Published 12:00 am Sunday, December 30, 2001

Staff Writer

Two Troy City Council members are losing quite a bit of their constituency under the new district plan.

John Witherington has been serving the city since before there were districts. Once the lines were drawn to create five council districts, Witherington represented the same constituency.

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All that changed with Census 2000.

The same can be said of Jason Reeves, who went straight from the classroom at Troy State University into citywide government at the age of 24 and has been elected twice.

Both men are not exactly thrilled to be losing some of their supporters, but realize the map created is the best that could be done.

"My district changed more dramatically than anybody’s," Witherington said.

After the census numbers were reported, the population in Witherington’s district had increased so much there had to be a major change.

The population was "way over and above" the ideal 2,787 population.

"I hate to lose this area, particularly since some of my family lives there," Witherington said. "Country Club Estates has been good to me.

"But, on the other hand it was the only realistic fit," he said of the outcome. "It never pleases any responsible elected official to lose part of a voting district."

Reeves, like Witherington, is realistic about the changes.

"It was just the best way to work it," Reeves said of the new districts.

He pointed out one census block south of U.S. 231 included 800 people, constituents of both men.

"I lived further south, so it just made sense," Reeves said. "The main goal was to draw something that would pass the Justice Department and I think we did.

"We looked at all this for about six months," he said of the process the council went through to come up with a mapping plan.

Reeves said he may have some new faces to learn, but getting to know his new constituents will not change the way he works on the council.

"It’s not going to change how I serve," Reeves said. I"m going to work just as hard."

In some ways, Reeves is looking forward to the changes.

When he first became a council member, he was the fresh-faced leader, representing many of those with whom he had contact while in college.

His new district will include more "family-type units," which is more inline with his family of four.

The redistricting plan that got final approval will have 2,720 residents in District 1, which is represented by Henderson. District 2, represented by Charles Meeks, has a total population of 2,874. Jason Reeves will represent 2,794 in District 3. John Witherington will have 2,804 residents in District 4. Wanda Moultry’s district will have a total population of 2,742 with 74 percent of the residents being minorities.

Points used in the decision-making process, included a 10-percent deviation, meaning not more or less than 5 percent. Other things that had to be considered when redrawing districts included: not diluting those districts with minority strengths, not moving a council member out of the district he or she represents and making sure everything is contiguous.

Under Alabama Code, the mayor had to present a plan to council members no later than six months after the census figures were certified. Since the council was re-elected last year, it does not actually have to submit a plan to the Justice Department for some time.

The South Central Alabama Development Commission drew the maps at no cost to the city.