It was a religious experience in the Historic Courthouse Wednesday night as the Newton County Constitutional Officers took their oaths of office surrounded by family and friends.
Judge Samuel Ozburn opened the ceremony with a prayer and statement of purpose.
“As many of you know, counties in Georgia are special,” he said. “We have more than any state besides Texas.”
He said the number of counties offers the citizens of Georgia a more personalized form of government.
“The first state constitution in 1777 created four elected county officers: the sheriff, the tax commissioner, the clerk of superior court and the judge of the probate court,” he said. “The superior court was also created but the judges were not limited to a single county at that time.
“It was not until 1868, almost 100 years later, that the position of the county commissioner was created to administer the general operations of the county.”
Newton County Sheriff Ezell Brown, Newton County Tax Commissioner Barbara Dingler and Newton County Clerk of Superior Court Linda D. Hays each took their oath of office. The oaths were conducted by Newton County Probate Court Judge Henry Baker.
“The sheriff enforces the law and maintains peace. The tax commissioner is the accountant for the county, keeping tax records, collecting and paying out tax collections. The superior court clerk is the primary record keeper of the county. The probate court judge – previously the ordinary – oversees the states, marriage licenses, guardianships and other duties,” Ozburn said. “Clearly these four county officers have consistently served as the backbone of Georgia’s system of county government since the formation of the state and their importance is greater today than ever.”
Ozburn said the oath of office process has followed the same process for four centuries. The oath has always included the raising of the right hand, placing of the left hand on the Bible, repeating the “so help me God” statement and kissing the Bible after the oath.
“The first year that the State of Georgia was created, a law was passed that required all elected officials, judges, jurors and witnesses to take their oath ‘in the presence of Almighty God, so help me God,’” he said.
Therefore, Ozburn said, the oath of office has always been a religious activity.
Melanie Bell, Newton County Probate Court Judge-elect, will take her oath of office Thursday at 2 p.m. in the Newton County Judicial Building.
The swearing in ceremony for recently elected Newton County Board of Commissioners Chairman Marcello Banes, Commissioner Stan Edwards, Commissioner Nancy Schulz, Commissioner Ronnie Cowan and Newton County Coroner Tommy Davis will take place Thursday at 6 p.m. in the Historic Courthouse.