CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) — A committee on Wednesday is discussing for the first time whether or not Charleston City Council is too big.
There are currently 26 members in the council, and Charleston’s population is about 48,864, according to the 2020 Census. Meaning that there is one council member for every 2,443 people.
While cities such as Chicago, New York City and Nashville have larger councils, they also have populations in the millions, and very few other cities with such large populations have larger councils than Charleston’s, according to the mayor. Charleston has the seventh-largest city council in the country, the new committee says.
On Wednesday, this committee talked about the city’s 26 council members that represent 20 wards. Some say it provides constituents with easy access to members, while critics say it is costly. Based on the 2023 expense report, almost $400,000 is spent on insurance benefits and elected official salaries. Each member of the Charleston City Council gets $250 per meeting.
“When I first became a member of council, I thought it was too large,” said Mary Jean Davis, former Charleston city council member. “The more that I served I released that it was large for a purpose to represent the different wards and the different issues people have in these wards.”
“Some of it gets a little frivolous to have that many people and it’s just too many people you don’t need it especially for a city this size,” said Danny Jones, former Charleston mayor. “You could do it with less than half.”
At Wednesday’s meeting, Jennifer Pharr was named committee chair, with Chuck Overstreet named vice-chair.
The resolution to discuss downsizing the city council passed two years ago. At Wednesday’s meeting, the committee talked about having public listening sessions, and how they would like to hear from other cities that have recently changed the size of their council.
They have until Dec. 31, 2023, to report back to the full city council with their findings and recommendations. The committee’s next meeting is set for Nov. 9 at 5:30 p.m.
Read the full resolution that passed in 2021 below: