Newton County will have a new form of government come January.
The county’s enabling legislation was signed into law by Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal Tuesday, according to Rep. Dave Belton, who informed newton’s commissioners. The charter says that Newton County’s day-to-day operations will be run by a county manager, and the manager, county chair and county commissioners will work as a checks-and-balances system in decision making.
“There’s not a consolidation of power in any one entity,” District 3 Commissioner Nancy Schulz said. “It’s validation that the primary responsibility of commissioners is to set policy and not mettle in day-to-day operations. We have a county manage who will be taking reigns of all operations, which I think is great.”
Work on the county’s charter began in 2014 when a citizen’s committee on form of government was formed. That committee researched how other counties similar to size and population of Newton County operated. The committee made a report in September 2015 to the board of commissioners, which adopted much of it into what will become the county’s enabling legislation.
“It’s exciting to know you had impact on basically the enabling legislation of the county,” said Ronnie Cowan, chair of the citizen’s committee. “I think we produced a report and product that is going to have long-term lasting good effects.
“It’s about 99 percent of what we had originally recommended. I was very pleased with it.”
The charter was approved in January by a vote of 4-1 after District 5 Commissioner Levie Maddox made a motion of approval and to send it to the county’s legislative delegation.
“For me, it's very exciting to have had my fingerprints on something that carries so much weight for Newton County,” Maddox said. “This document provides the clarity of roles that we need to operate effectively. “
The legislation passed through the State Senate on March 14, and through the State House by substitute on May 16. It then went back to the Senate, which passed it as amended on March 24. The State Senate, which is where the bill originated, as Senate Bill 423, sent it to Gov. Nathan Deal to be signed on April 4.
The legislation will go into effect in January, after elections, which includes the county chair and commission districts 1, 3 and 5.
The journey of the county’s form of government will result in a county manager running Newton’s day-to-day operations, and the county chair managing the roads department and having veto powers on 3-2 votes by the commissioners. The county started moving to a county manager form of government in 2011 when Commissioners J.C. Henderson, Tim Fleming and Mort Ewing voted to remove oversight of all departments but roads and bridges from then county chair Kathy Morgan.
“It gives clarity to everybody moving forward,” Schulz said. “It is the culmination of many years of work and conformation that the citizens and the commissioner and our legislators all work together.
“I personally believe that a lot of the confusion and chaos taken place since 2011 has been the root of so much dysfunction up to this point."