Voters in Macon and Bibb County strongly approved consolidation in Tuesday's election, settling a decades-long political battle.
Mayor Robert Reichert claimed victory for the pro-consolidation forces shortly before 11 p.m. as the results from the last of 48 precincts were posted on the county's website.
The measure won separate tallies in the city and county, a requirement for passage.
On Eyewitness News at 11, Reichert said: "I am thrilled and delighted."
"I think it's going to unify our community and pull us together," he said. "It's going to get rid of this 'us versus them' mentality that I think has held us back for so long."
He said a decisive vote would be a positive statement by the community of wanting to work together to move forward.
Reichert united with Bibb County Commission Chairman Sam Hart to lead the campaign for consolidation, backed by tens of thousands of dollars of advertising.
With all 48 precincts reporting, this was the unofficial final count from the Board of Elections:
County City Total
YES 8869 9624 18493
NO 7103 7028 14131
Reichert said the next step would be formation of a transition committee to plan the merger.
He said he hadn't decided whether to run for Mayor of the consolidated government.
But his predecessor as Mayor, C. Jack Ellis, an outspoken opponent of consolidation, told 13WMAZ's Candace Adorka he was running for Mayor of a united Macon-Bibb County.
Consolidation will replace the 15-member Macon City Council and the five-member Bibb County Commission with a new nine-member commission and an executive mayor.
Councilwoman Elaine Lucas, a staunch opponent of consolidation, said it would disenfranchise black voters by eliminating the offices of black City Council members.
She also said consolidation has "been shown not to save money."
Advocates of consolidation pointed to the requirement for a 20 percent cut in the combined city and county budgets over four years.
Lucas says the requirement can easily be circumvented.
Consolidation will also dissolve the government of Payne City, the town-within-a-city with a population of 218, according to the 2010 U.S. Census.
The consolidation vote helped draw a Bibb voter turnout of 40.3 percent, as tallied by the Georgia Secretary of State's office.