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      West Columbia Mayor pushes for a change in government

      West Columbia, SC (WACH) - Midlands voters may end up having the final say in a months-long power struggle between West Columbia's mayor and the city council.

      Back in April, council voted to strip Mayor Joe Owens of his powers.

      And now, Owens is pushing to change the city's form of government.

      "I do not have the authority to run meetings, or executive sessions," said Mayor Owens. "That is the mainstay for dispersing information to the council, but the mayor has been silenced on that by five votes."

      Owens has gathered more than 1500 petition signatures to push for the strong mayor system.

      With the power struggle between the mayor and city council, Owens is hoping voters will help change the current council form of government to move the city forward.

      If voters green light the plan, the mayor will be given much more authority over day-to-day operations.

      "The mayor is a really good friend of mine, and a friend to everyone in West Columbia," said West Columbia resident Morris Phillips, Jr. "What we want to do is have council behave themselves, to sit down, shut up, and let the mayor be mayor and let him be chairman and we'll be so happy."

      However, being happy is not a feeling that everyone in the community shares, including councilman Tem Miles, who has been a vocal critic of Owens in the past.

      "I hope the citizens of West Columbia will deny the mayor his push for strong mayor much like the citizens of Columbia did when Steve Benjamin tried to push for strong mayor in Columbia," said Miles. "I hope everybody goes out and says no to Joe."

      If voters approve the strong mayor form of government, council members have already moved to push back the effective date of the strong mayor system by 12 months.

      "That's just trying to be vindictive," said Phillips.

      According to councilman Miles, that 12 month period will allow council to seek input from other cities on other practices used to change the current codes of ordinances. He says the current ordinances have been used for more than three decades in West Columbia.

      "I think 12 months will be a tight time frame to get all the changes in, so I don't think there's a possibility of shortening that time period," added Miles.

      Voters will head to the polls to decide West Columbia's form of government on September 30.