Walker County voters overwhelmingly elected to move from a Sole Commissioner form of government to a Board of Commissioners. 80% of votes cast in the November 6th election favored moving to a board. So, how does this work?
In early 2017, the Georgia General Assembly was asked to pass legislation to give the public an official vote on whether to move to a board. State lawmakers and legislative counsel, using parameters established by representatives from the Walker County Republican Party, drafted a bill outlining the composition of a five-person board, their duties, powers, district maps and other related matters. Governor Nathan Deal signed the bill into law on May 2, 2017.
As established in the Act, the County won’t change from a Sole Commissioner to a Board of Commissioners until January 1, 2021. This will allow candidates time to explore and mount campaigns to run for office. The first group of board members will be elected in November 2020. There will be four district commissioners and a chairperson. The four district commissioners must have resided in their district for 12 months, be 18 years of age or older and will be elected by only the voters of their district. The chairperson must have resided in Walker County for 12 months, be 25 years of age or older and will be elected by all county voters. Along with presiding over meetings, the chairperson administers the affairs and day to day business of the county.
District 1 & 2 Commissioners will serve an initial two-year term, while the District 3 & 4 Commissioners and the Chairperson will serve four-year terms. After 2022, all commissioner seats will become four-year terms. This means every two years, two of the district commissioner positions will be on the ballot.
The state Legislative and Congressional Reapportionment Office designed the four districts, attempting to equalize the population of each district in relation to the cities of Rossville, Chickamauga, LaFayette and Lookout Mountain. You can see a copy of the district map here.
District commissioners will be paid $12,000 a year and reimbursed for documented reasonable expenses, which the entire board must vote on. The chairperson will be paid $100,000 or $500 more than the highest paid elected county officer, whichever is greater. The state dictates elected official pay, based on position and years of service. District commissioners may participate in county provided health, dental and retirement programs at their own expense. No county funds should be spent on these programs to benefit district commissioners.
At their first meeting as a board in January 2021, the five commissioners will determine the time, date and place of their meetings going forward. Those meetings must take place in LaFayette, the county seat.