It’s a new day in Newton County! At least, it will be come January 1, 2017 when freshly passed legislation setting up a new county government structure goes into effect.
It’s been a long time coming. In a politically motivated 3-2 vote in 2011, the majority of the Board of Commissioners (BOC) voted to strip the county-wide elected chair of all her duties, with the exception of the roads department, and set up a county manager form of government. The trouble was the vote did not come with instructions for how the responsibilities were to be apportioned or who was to report to whom. It was like the definition of a camel: a horse put together by a committee. And you see how well that turned out.
That’s the kind of county government we have labored under since 2011. That vote set up a condoned form of chaos, and we have suffered mightily for it. Surely no one needs to be reminded of the scandals and crises that have rocked Newton County in the aftermath. We have been leaderless, a floundering and foundering county.
Wisely, this BOC finally named a citizen committee on form of government and appointed a highly responsible group of individuals committed to correcting the sins that set us adrift in 2011. They produced a comprehensive document, most of which was approved by the BOC and drafted into legislation submitted to our legislative delegation to be considered this just concluded session. The State Senate and State House produced different versions, but delicate negotiations produced a compromise agreed to by the BOC. That version finally passed Thursday, the last day of the 2016 legislative session.
Thanks are due many, but to name names would no doubt result in omissions. We, the citizens of Newton County are deeply grateful to this board of commissioners for putting in place the citizens committee and taking its recommendations; the citizens committee that worked intensely to review governance options and recommend the best for Newton County; the House and Senate delegation that ultimately came together to pass meaningful legislation; and the voters of Newton County who lobbied consistently for a correction to an ill-conceived county governance structure. We are all winners now.