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New commission chair says rules not being followed, changes to be made

Since being elected chairman of the Washington County Board of Commissioners, Greg Matherly has been studying the rules of procedure.
“If you look at the rules, they tell you how to conduct the meeting step by step,” he said.
“I’m trying to follow them. I think it’s what the commissioners want. I’ve also had several citizens e-mail me about following the rules.”
Matherly said members of the Rules Committee are working through the 21 pages of commission rules.
“The committee hasn’t gone through all of them, and some may need to be readdressed,” he said.
One rule not being followed, according to Matherly, is in calling the meeting to order.
“The sheriff has always served as the sergeant-at-arms of the meeting,” he said.
“The sergeant-at-arms is the one who is supposed to open the meeting. That’s a formality that’s not being done.”
In other areas, the rules may need to be updated to match procedures that are working better.
“The rules say the adoption of all resolutions should come at the end of the meeting, but that would have us voting on issues we talked about an hour before,” he said.
According to Matherly, the chairman needs to follow the rules and have orderly meetings the public can understand.
“It’s also important to stay on topic,” he said.
Increased involvement from residents during the commission meetings is something else Matherly would like to have.
“I’ve talked to some of the commissioners about asking local pastors to give the prayer,” he said.
Another idea is a public comment session.
“They can always contact us directly, but sometimes people want to come and speak,” Matherly said.
“It’s their meeting, and we’re there to represent them.”
The recent addition of a parliamentarian will be an asset as far as following procedures, Matherly believes.
“I think his role will be very important in making sure things are done correctly,” he said.
Among Matherly’s goals as chairman this year are to work with commissioners to improve the meeting facility so the general public can hear and understand their business is being transacted.
“I think we need a public address system, and I would like to see all the commissioners facing their constituents,” he said.
Matherly said it’s been a tough couple of months on the commission, but he is willing to work with Mayor Dan Eldridge any way he can.
“We’ve already spent eight to 10 hours talking, and I know we’re going to be able to work through many of the issues,” he said.
“I want us to be off to a new start. The mayor wants a new role in economic development, and we need to get down to business for the people of Washington County.”
Matherly said he had no idea the opportunity for a new start was coming.
“I had several citizens approach me about the mayor not continuing as chair, but I wanted the decision to be his,” Matherly said.
“As vice chair, I had no inkling he was resigning until the day of the commission meeting, about 3 p.m.”
Now that he has been placed in the lead position, Matherly said he is ready to take the ball and run with it.
The senior center is one project Matherly thinks the commission is very supportive of.
“A lot of commissioners are excited about being part of it because it helps a lot of people,” he said.
There are other issues important to commissioners that Matherly says he also will address. He is considering forming a steering committee to come up with a list of goals and objectives.
Eldridge refused to sign the informal legislative agenda presented to him a few weeks ago, but Matherly remains optimistic.
“I think the mayor is willing to sit down at any time, and I’m willing to sit down,” he said.
“I already feel that things are improving in communication, and I have a very positive outlook.”
Because he is still a commissioner, Matherly retains the right to vote while serving as chairman.
“It’s at the top of my list to determine when I can vote,” he said. “I’m going to do whatever the rules say, I promise you that.”
Matherly said running the meeting will be his primary job.
“I got 25 votes. I even voted for myself,” he said.
“I’m going to do my best. That’s what they elected me to do.”