On Nov. 6, voters in Walker County, Ga. will vote on a referendum to determine if the county will move to a five person board of commissioners or stay with a sole commissioner form of government. The referendum is the result of several years of debate and discussion within the county.
In 2012, Dr. Paul Shaw, in his attempt to unseat then-Sole Commissioner Bebe Heiskell, made establishing a board of commissioners a priority of candidacy. In that race, Dr. Shaw lost by a few hundred votes but this issue continued to percolate throughout Walker County for the next several years in the Republican Party and the Northwest Georgia Tea Party. In 2015, however, actions were taken to elevate this issue.
In October of 2015, the County Committee of the Walker County Republican Party voted unanimously to put a straw question on the primary ballot a straw non-binding question to ask Walker County voters if the wanted a board of commissioner or stay with a sole commissioner form of government. In May 2016, over 75 percent of the people voting in the primary stated they wanted a board of commissioners for Walker County. From there, the Walker County Republican Party went to work.
In October 2015, I was asked to chair a group to look at what type of board of commissioners would work best for Walker County. I selected party members from various communities in Walker County and we began work. Over the next two and a half months the group did research and conducted meetings including one with representatives of Dade County government because the group felt Dade County's form of commissioner with four part-time commissioners and a full time executive or chairman would work for Walker County. In late December 2016, our work culminated in a report that I composed with recommendations that was submitted to Walker County's legislative delegation.
In January, 2017, Rep. Steve Tarvin and Senator Jeff Mullis began work on a Local Act for Walker County which would establish a referendum for November 2018, giving the citizens of Walker County the right to officially decide on a form of government for Walker County's future. After a great deal of work by our legislative delegation and the Office of Apportionment of the Georgia General Assembly, a Local Act was passed complete with maps for the proposed commission districts. In August 2018, the County Committee of the Walker County Republican Party unanimously passed a resolution backing the referendum.
The question has been asked as to why the Walker County Republican Party would throw its weight behind this referendum. The reasons are several. First, in the United States, there are over 3,000 counties and parishes. Of those, only seven are sole commissioner forms of government and all reside in Georgia. When the United States was established, our founders wanted divided government so as to not give to much power to one person or group. We feel the sole commissioner form of government gives too much power to one person. And it's difficult for one person to know all the needs of county that covers 465 square miles.
Second, a board of commissioners will have checks and balances not found in the sole commissioner form of government. For example, in the proposed form of government the chairman could only spend $25,000 without full commission approval.
Third, having four district commissioners will allow communities in the county to have someone who can represent that community's interests with county government while also working for the entire county's good as well. District commissioners will come from different walks of life and offer varied perspectives when looking at issues as opposed to just one sole commissioner.
At the end of the day, we feel the voters of Walker County will be better served by voting yes for a board of commissioners to move Walker County to a better future.