Downsizing, staggering of commission discussed

Published 12:24 am Saturday, October 16, 2021

BY IVAN SANDERS
STAR STAFF
ivan.sanders@elizabethton.com   

Downsizing of the Carter County Commission will be discussed at the next Rules and Bylaws workshop at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Carter County Courthouse.

Currently, there are 24 commissioners, three from each of the eight districts.

“If it’s feasible, the easiest way to do it is to take one commissioner from each district to make it two if that is something that this committee even wants to do,” said Chairman Randall Jenkins. “(As for) committee layouts — there are possibilities but I wanted to throw it out there so you guys can start thinking about it”

Twice in the last eight years efforts to reduce the size of the commission were voted down by commissioners.

However with the release of new U.S. Census numbers, now is the time to consider downsizing, Jenkins has said.

Commissioner Charles Von Cannon suggested members also consider staggering the election of commissioners.

“I looked at 95 counties and found that about six to eight were not in the mix because they are metros like Davidson County and they don’t fit into the county situation,” Von Cannon said. “I averaged the number of commissioners per county and it came out 10.8. In our case, (by) taking away one per district leaving 16, and staggering the election you have some continuity. We don’t have any continuity. We should think about staggering the election because we never have done, that but continuity is important.”

Von Cannon’s recommendation would mean that no more than half the commissioners would be up for election at any time.

“The cities do it — Watauga and the City Council of Elizabethton — and I think it’s a good idea,” said Administrator of Elections Tracy Tanner-Harris. “That is why the Assessor of Property and the Trustee run opposite, so at least one of them has a couple of years under their belt.”

Staggering the commission elections initially would require one group of commissioners to stay for a term of four years and one group two years.

Committee member Isaiah Grindstaff said when he was elected two-thirds of the commissioners were new to office.

“We had to relearn everything,” he said. “It was such a big deal in the state and not just our county at that time that CTAS put on those additional training because you had such a large turnover in county commissioners in every county. Look in the eight years that have elapsed with us how much we have had to go back trying to get all those documents we have because we didn’t have anything. We can’t do that again. We should not allow the county to go back into that state where we have nothing for four years because that is not fair to anyone wanting to be elected.”

The committee also worked on an initial draft for redrawing lines in each district in an attempt to equalize the eight districts “to make it right for the people,” Jenkins said.

The target population in each district is 7,045 with the ideal deviation being between 3 and 6 percent. The state deviation allows up to a 10 percent deviation.