Commissioners weigh in on redistricting maps, commission reduction

Published 9:11 pm Tuesday, October 26, 2021

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

The rules and bylaws committee “has a lot to decide” when it comes to redrawing district lines for the Carter County Commission.

After the third redistricting workshop concluded on Monday, committee chairman Randall Jenkins said the group has tough decisions ahead. “This committee has a lot to decide — what map we are going with, how many commissioners, and the committee layout.”

Jenkins said his preference is for eight districts because “that is the only way we are going to get it passed and if not, we are going to be reconvening after that workshop and full commission and it’s going to be a nightmare … We are three to four meetings into it, and the whole time that I have been working on these maps, my gut has told me that the eight districts and the two commissioners is the only way to get it through the 24 commissioners and I hate that because there are some good ideas in there.”

The committee reviewed maps with nine, 13, 15, and 16 districts, and members continued to voice one overriding concern: who would serve in 13- or 16-district setups?

“The sad thing is nobody put in when Patty (Woodby) left for Mayor,” said Commissioner Julie Guinn. “Then, when Mike Hill left, thank heavens Mr. Miller decided to step out there because nobody was interested in doing anything. So what are you going to do if no one is interested in doing anything?

“People want something done but they don’t want to do it themselves.”

Jenkins agreed, adding “On that same point, we have been doing the same thing for years and people are mad. I think it’s a broken system that when I talk to people, it is there are too many (commissioners). Just like tonight, this is the most discussion and we have literally made no traction. I have been on (the commission) for seven years and we don’t get half done what we should get done.”

Jenkins asked fellow commissioners how many had promised voters they would reduce the number of commissioners, and seven members present raised their hands.

Woodby said the commission already is “16 working commissioners out of the 24 commissioners.”

“Several commissioners that go above and beyond,” Woodby said. “And that is where you have to weigh it to — are you really 24 commissioners or are you really already 16 working commissioners?”

The final redistricting workshop is 6 p.m. Thursday at the courthouse. The Rules and Bylaws will meet on Nov. 2 to vote on their recommendation that will go to the full commission on Nov. 9 in a special called session.