COVINGTON, Ga. — Alana Sanders has moved up in the ranks of the Newton County Commission after only one meeting.
The board voted 3-2 on Tuesday, Jan. 5, to appoint her as vice chairman after Sanders and veteran member J.C. Henderson said she was ready for the job leading meetings in the absence of the chairman this year.
Commissioners Demond Mason and Stan Edwards voted against the appointment. Henderson and Commissioner Ronnie Cowan voted for it, with Sanders providing the tie-breaking vote for herself.
The narrow vote of approval came after Chairman Marcello Banes recommended a more experienced commissioner serve in the position.
“I suggested Commissioner Sanders get in, get her feet wet, find out all the things that’s going on on the board,” Banes said. “No doubt in my mind that she’s capable of doing it.”
Sanders told Banes she was intelligent enough to do the job and already experienced in using Robert's Rules of Order and parliamentary procedure to conduct meetings.
“I have done parliamentary procedure since 4-H in fifth grade,” she said.
The vice chairman presides over board meetings when the chairman is absent. It is a one-year appointment and normally rotates to each board member based on the numeric order of their district.
Duties of the chairperson include "preserving decorum and order at all meetings" and "calling for a recess at such times as deemed advisable," according to the board's "Rules for the Conduct of Business" adopted in 2016.
This year the vice chairman job rotated to the District 3 board member after District 2 member Mason served in 2020.
Banes said he recommended Cowan of District 5 be appointed because District 4 member Henderson declined despite being the next person in the rotation.
Henderson said he supported Sanders’ appointment and believed she could handle the job because of such factors as her educational level. Sanders teaches college business courses.
He said Banes also was inexperienced in chairing board meetings when he began leading them after his 2016 election.
“We shouldn’t even be having this discussion,” Henderson said. “She is fully capable and very smart.”
Sanders, in her first meeting as the board's District 3 member, said she had observed how the board conducted business in the six months since she won her commission seat from three-term incumbent Nancy Schulz in the Democratic Primary election in June.
She said service as vice chair would give any board member considering “moving up” the experience of leading the board.
“Never deter someone from learning,” Sanders said.
Banes said he “agreed with her 100%.”
“We want to give you an opportunity to learn. Not saying that you can’t do it,” he said.
Mason said he knew Sanders had the intelligence to do the job but opposed her appointment because she needed to be more familiar with her job as commissioner before taking on more responsibility.
“I think any new commissioner that comes on the board — it’s their objective to fulfill their immediate elected role, understand that role, get comfortable in that role, and then take on additional leadership roles on the board,” Mason said.
“I know when I was elected in 2018, I had to get comfortable in 2019 and I wasn’t appointed as vice chair until 2020,” he said.
However, County Attorney Megan Martin said she recommended the board not diverge from the order they had established for appointment to the position. Cowan then made a motion to appoint Sanders.
In other action, the county commission:
• Extended the mask ordinance in unincorporated Newton County and in county-owned facilities countywide through June 30.
• Denied a request from new Tax Commissioner Marcus Jordan to stop requiring county commission approval before waiving penalties or interest for failure to pay property taxes if done for reasonable cause rather than willful neglect or disregard for the law.
• Approved an intergovernmental agreement with the city of Covington for extension of fiber optic cable for expansion of 911 emergency service from Covington Fire Station No. 22 to a water tower adjacent to the General Mills plant off Alcovy Road; and from Lakeview Drive to a cell phone tower off Williams Brothers Drive in Covington.
The county will provide $57,000 and the city $28,000 of the total cost, said County Manager Lloyd Kerr.
• Unanimously reappointed County Clerk Jackie Smith for a one-year term.
• Honored Doster “Dos” Harper of Covington for being named the National FFA President for 2020-2021; and Mansfield resident Lewis Banks for being named the Georgia County Agents Association's 2020 Outstanding Young Farmer.
• Appointed Lloyd Jackson as the new District 3 member on the county Planning Commission and reappointed Vivian Richardson as District 4 member and Ernie Smith as District 1 member. Other members are Landis Stephens (chairman), Alan Millhouse (District 2) and Jody Smith (District 5).
• Appointed Victoria Redding as the new District 3 member on the county Board of Zoning Appeals and reappointed James Russell as the District 4 member and Larry Corban for District 1. Other members are Dr. Nick Hathorn (chairman), Darren Wiggins (District 2) and Scott Jay (District 5).