Committee to be formed for countywide chairman

Thu, 03/19/2009 - 3:28pm
By: Ben Nelms

It might not seem like much now, but it could be a significant move for Coweta County government in years to come. Talk that began more than a year ago and resumed last month over having a countywide commission chairman resulted Tuesday in an agreement to form a committee to study the possibility. Though there was virtually no discussion on the matter, each commissioner agreed to provide a name for the committee at the April 7 meeting. Commissioners Paul Poole and Randolph Collins will also serve on the committee. If approved, the move could not occur until the 2010 census numbers are finalized.

The move to establish the study committee came after the recommendation Feb. 26 by District 4 Commissioner Rodney Brooks, who suggested that a panel be established to visit other counties and develop a pro’s and con’s list for considering a countywide chairman. District 1 Commissioner Al Smith agreed, adding that the panel should include community members.

“I think it’s vital to be able to attend (out-of-county) meetings and be the voice of the community,” District 3 Commissioner Randolph Collins said at the Feb. 26 meeting as he introduced the idea. “I thought at first it could be part-time, but I think now it could be full-time. The chairman has growing responsibilities.”

District 2 Commissioner Tim Lassetter at the meeting also agreed with the idea of having a countywide chairman and, like Brooks, suggested that the county look at how other counties with full-time chairmen approach the issue. Chairman and District 1 Commissioner Paul Poole was the only member of the board that did not endorse the need to move to a commission chairman elected by voters countywide.

Poole at the Feb. 26 meeting stressed that a countywide chairman would not need to be responsible for hiring and appointments. He also noted that even though the board might have equal votes, the chairman in some counties tends to gain power over a period of time.

“It’s important that each district get represented each year. I think what we have works well and we shouldn’t change,” Poole said.

Smith at the previous meeting asked if moving to a countywide commissioner would require re-districting. County attorney Jerry Ann Conner said it would be an issue, adding that the county will have to look re-districting after the 2010 census.

“So look at it in 2011 after the census figures are in and the census tracts are confirmed,” said county administrator Theron Gay.

Commissioners more than a year ago entertained the idea of going to a countywide chairman. The discussion led to an agreement to identify and establish a committee to study the move and report back to the commission. And in April 2008 in a meeting examining Coweta’s governmental structure, commissioners said any proposal would have to go before U.S. Dept. of Justice to determine if doing so would dilute the minority vote.

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