If you want a county  chairman, vote “no”

Numerous citizens have approached me over the past few weeks asking me to write about the approaching commission chairman question that will be on the General Election ballot. There will be a special Non-binding Advisory Referendum on the November 3 ballot regarding the Appling County Commission Chairman position.

Does this mean the commissioners are obligated to follow the desire of the voters? No. Again, this is a non-binding referendum or question. The commissioners are simply polling the community to get a better understanding of its feelings toward keeping the position or not keeping it. However, the commissioners went on record at a prior meeting and stated that they will honor the wishes of the community.

The referendum asks the following:

“Shall the size of the Appling County Board of Commissioners be reduced by eliminating the position of the at-large commission chairperson?” (Yes or No)

“All persons desiring to vote for approval of the question shall vote “Yes”, and all persons desiring to vote for rejection of the question shall vote “No.” The expense of such election shall be borne by Appling County. It shall be the election superintendent’s duty to certify the result thereof to the Secretary of State.”

In plain terms if you want to keep the chairman position, vote “No”. If you do not want a chairman, vote “Yes”.

It is no secret that I support keeping the chairman position for various reasons. My biggest concern is that without a countywide elected chairman, it could potentially result in one district wielding too much power. If the commission doesn’t have a countywide elected chairman, the chair would be elected from among the existing five district commissioners. While the commissioners could choose to rotate the position on an annual basis, there could come a time when you have three commissioners that would like to keep control of the commission and the chairman position. These commissioners could control who is the commission chairman as long as they continue to be elected in their districts. This could even result in having one district commissioner serving as chairman indefinitely. Therefore, in my opinion there is a risk that one particular district could receive more attention or even more funding than other districts.

The chairman also sets the agenda for the meeting and can have influence or give opinions on decisions being considered by the district commissioners. Some say that the chairman has no real power. The chairman does have voting authority in the case of a tie-break situation, and I have witnessed this occur several times over the last 20 years of reporting on the commission. To say the chairman doesn’t have any real authority is simply not true.

Again, if you’d like to keep the chairman position, vote “No”. If you’d like to see the position go away, vote “Yes”.

-Jamie Gardner