Gallatin city leaders have begun weighing potential redistricting plans following a decade of unprecedented growth that saw the city’s population increase by more than 46 percent.
District lines are required to be reviewed and redrawn every 10 years based on updated federal census data in order to make sure the city’s population remains evenly distributed across its five council districts.
According to the 2020 Census, Gallatin now has 44,431 residents. Districts currently range in size from 6,919 residents to 14,779 residents.
Most of the population growth occurred in District 4 on the west side of the city, which grew 141 percent during the last decade. By comparison, the other districts grew between 9 percent and 47 percent during the same period.
Last month, members of the Gallatin City Council were presented with four different redistricting proposals by Chief Information Officer Lori Smiley.
“Consideration was given to areas of planned growth,” Smiley said about the options during the meeting on Aug. 24. “In some cases where the population of the district was a little bit lower… we can take into consideration all of the developments, the planned growth and things like that already in the pipeline.”
Once redistricting is complete, each district should have between 8,442 and 9,330 residents, Smiley added.
Earlier in the meeting, Long Hollow Pike resident Michelle Jouvence told members of the council that she believes the city needs more districts because of how much it has grown in recent years.
“Since 2008, our geographic area has almost doubled with annexations and three of you have been here through all of that,” Jouvence said. “You voted to add all this land to the city, so why haven’t you added more districts?”
According to City Attorney Susan High-McAuley, Gallatin has had a seven-member city council since at least 1855. All members were at-large until 1990 when the city voted to change its charter to have five council districts and two at-large members.
Any change to the structure of the city council would need approval from the state legislature, which likely won’t occur until the spring, she added.
“In the future, if this body determines they want to keep seven (members) and go to all districts we can do that,” High-McAuley said. “Or, if you want to add districts you can do that too, but I don’t think that we have time to do that before this next election.”
The Gallatin City Council is scheduled to further discuss the proposed redistricting options during its next committee meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 14 at 6 p.m.
County begins redistricting talks
Sumner County commissioners could choose to change more than just district lines as part of a state-mandated redistricting process that must occur every 10 years following a federal census.
During the first meeting of the county’s redistricting committee last month, Wesley Robertson with the University of Tennessee County Technical Assistance Service informed members that state law allows commissioners to make certain changes to district structures if they so desire.
By law, a county legislative body can have anywhere between nine and 25 members and up to three members per district. Sumner County has 12 districts with 24 total members.
“If you wanted to change your structure, the state would prefer that you do it now,” Robertson said on Aug. 23. “It just makes sense. We have the new (population) data. If you want to do that then now is the time.”
Committee members have not said if they want to make any changes to the overall structure of the commission. The group’s second meeting was scheduled to take place Wednesday evening after this newspaper’s deadline.
According to 2020 Census data, Sumner County now has 196,281 residents – an increase of 35,636 residents during the last decade.
If no changes are made to the overall number of commission districts, each one should ideally include 16,357 residents based on the updated population numbers. However, district sizes currently range from 13,921 residents to 22,026 residents before any changes are made to the district boundaries.
“Really, this is a simple process if you could exclude the politics,” Robertson said about redrawing district lines. “But everything in county government would be simple if we exclude the politics sometimes.”
The county redistricting committee is scheduled to meet every Wednesday in September at the Sumner County Administration Building in Gallatin at 5 p.m.
Officials say they hope to have a redistricting option to present to the full commission to vote on in November.