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Front Page History: Danville’s commission form of government turns 50 years old

Danville has been operating under a city-commission form of local government now for 50 years.

The city transitioned from a 12-member council format at the end of the 1960s. The first ever Danville City Commission meeting was held the night of Jan. 13, 1970, and the results filled much of The Danville Advocate-Messenger’s front page on this day, Jan. 14, half a century ago.

“On the threshold of a new year, and possibly a whole new era beginning in urban technology and environmental science, Mayor Roy W. Arnold called the meeting to order at 7:30 p.m. at city hall,” wrote former Advocate Editor W.C. Alcock. “Taking their places as Danville’s first commissioners are A.H. Exon, Charles Milburn, Ronald Logue and George Harlan.

“Thus, the old 12-man city council and mayor form of government the City of Danville has had for close to a century passes into oblivion. The last councilmen were: Perry Hawn, George Perros, Briscoe Inman, William B. Martin, John Farmer, James Foster, Joe Gibson, Melvin Bugg, Ronald Logue, Fred Stone, George Harlan and Dewey H. Stuart.”

Logue and Harlan were the only two council members to seek and win election to the new, much smaller commission. Eben C. Henson was the last mayor to serve under the council format; he was defeated by Arnold in the 1969 race to become the first Danville mayor under the commission form, according to the article.

“With an eye to economy, opened wider by a rather extravagant financial outpouring of city funds over previous years and months, the new City Board of Commissioners got their first meeting off on the right foot by scrutinizing carefully the first line of expense — the monthly bills of the city and water works accounts,” the story reads. “These total $11,614.76 for the city in December, and $6,417.59 for the water and sewer system in December.”

The new commission reduced its December bills right off the bat by voting to hold off on spending $2,000 for a new motor scooter.

William Schmidt, who had served as Danville’s city administrator for a little less than a year, was appointed by the commission to be the city’s first ever city manager. Dorothy Van Gilder was re-appointed as city clerk. And Henry V. Pennington was re-employed as city attorney under the new form of government, according to another front-page story.

The commission also clarified language concerning the city’s new 1% payroll tax; voted to regulate operation of the city dump due to a growing number of problems; considered the idea of hiring the city’s own engineer to save on rising fees charged by outside engineering firms; and passed first readings of ordinances that would set a new time for city commission meetings, reduce an auto sticker fine from $25 to $10 and create penalties for failing to record property transfers and changes.

Also on A1 50 years ago: A bill was introduced in the Kentucky legislature that would turn Boyle and Mercer counties into their own separate judicial district.

The bill was sponsored by Republican Floor Leader William Harold DeMarcus and Rep. Philip Joseph Clarke Jr., D-Danville.

At the time, Boyle, Mercer, Garrard and Lincoln counties made up the 13th District. The bill planned to put Garrard and Lincoln counties together with Jessamine County, while Boyle and Mercer would become an entirely new district. That redistricting move has been unchanged since — Boyle and Mercer today make up the 50th District and Garrard, Lincoln and Jessamine make up the 13th.