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Posted: May 6, 2014 6:41 p.m.

Chairman in charge

The more we think about the county’s conversations about what type of government the county should have going forward, the more we believe the ultimate authority should be returned to the people through the elected county chairman.

For decades, Newton County had a strong-chairman form of government, which worked well until the prior Board of Commissioners decided to strip the then-chairman of her powers and give more authority to a county manager. While commissioners said they did what they needed to do, the rationale for the change was never clearly explained, and it’s clear there were character conflicts in addition to legitimate issues.

Neither the chairman nor the majority of commissioners who voted for the change are in office.

The chairman and a county manager/administrator will always disagree because any two people working together, no matter how close, won’t agree on everything.

However, we’ve heard talk of dysfunction between the two positions, and that’s most likely due to the fact both the chairman and county manager think they’re in control. The structure needs clarity. The county needs one boss to receive the glory when his decisions work out and to take the fall when they don’t.

If the chairman is the top authority, he’ll need a strong county administrator supporting him and carrying out the chairman’s and the Board of Commissioner’s priorities during his day-to-day running of the county. That shouldn’t change.

Hiring a county manager, who is the top authority, would not only be expensive in the future, but having to remove a county manager could place the county in a distracting game of political hot potato.

A county chairman can be removed by the vote of the people, and while that can only happen once every four years, the Board of Commissioners is the group responsible for keeping the chairman in line, if necessary, in between elections.

We hope commissioners will poll their constituents, but we feel confident returning authority to the position of elected chairman will be the popular choice. We also believe it’s the right choice for now.

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