As we reported first on Wednesday, longtime Newton County Administrator John Middleton is retiring, effective Dec. 15. Since the county cut positions to balance its budget, they can't refill his position.
With that in mind, we say that now is a good time to consider a county manager system of government for Newton County.
The Great Recession has given us a pause in population growth, but this is no longer some sleepy rural county. Our current form of government dates from the days when the elected chairman basically oversaw all aspects of government operation. That worked fine when the chairman's biggest concern was paving the roads, but not today.
With a population of nearly 100,000, Newton County is in need of a full-time professional manager to run county government's day-to-day operations. Our commission members should set policy, but they should not be micro-managing. They need to have their hands off the actual functioning of government and let the professionals do their jobs.
That's where a county manager would come in, answering to the commissioners and implementing their wishes, but advising them and in charge of the actual functioning of the government. Think of a county manager as a CEO, answering to the board.
That's how it's done in business, especially when a business reaches a certain size.
Newton County government has reached that critical mass where it would make good business sense to put a professional in charge.
We urge Chairman Kathy Morgan and commission members to consider the possibility.