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Redistricting members want no reduction in commission size

In an effort to save the county money, members of the Redistricting Committee voted to recommend the Washington County Commission remain at maximum-allowed 25 members.
“All of you, like me, have received calls about redistricting and reducing the number of commissioners,” Chairman Greg Matherly said during the Aug. 30 meeting.
“And the questions is, ‘Why do you want to cut my representation?’”
Attorney John Rambo said counties are allowed by law to have between nine and 25 commissioners. The lower the number of commissioners, the larger the number of constituents each represents.
“Generally speaking, you are more apt to know a commissioner if there are 25 rather than nine,” Rambo said.
“And you may feel more comfortable talking with someone based on a relationship rather than where you live geographically.”
Commissioner David Shanks said constituents tell him all the time they want more representation.
“I move to have 25 commissioners and just be done with this,” he said.
“We have jobs to do, and we do them. Despite all the bad press, commissioners are still the cheapest employees the county has.”
Shanks said a reduction in commission members would substantially increase the cost to the county, and put the county in danger of being affected by special interest groups.
“The only people out there talking less commissioners are the liberal media,” he said.
The motion was seconded by Commissioner Roger Nave.
Commissioner George “Skip” Oldham said he wanted to reduce the number when he campaigned.
“But (Commissioner) Mark Ferguson made a very salient point by saying those in the city have less responsibility (than commissioners in the county), because if someone calls me, I tell them to call the city.
“My constituents don’t agree, but when you have a situation where the commission can’t do the work, you need to hire a support staff, and we don’t need another level of bureaucracy.
“I can vote with a clear conscience,” Oldham said.
Commissioner Alpha Bridger said she also gets a lot of calls. “I try to explain, but they don’t care,” she said. “Until you do the job, you don’t know what the job is.”
Commissioner Lee Chase said reducing the number of commissioners was a hot button during the campaign.
“It would seem they (constituents) would want more representation,” Chase said. “I’m obviously torn, I may have to pass on the vote.”
Voting committee members were unanimous in their recommendation to keep the commission at 25 members, with Chase abstaining.
No motion was made to recommend a change in the number of districts, which currently stands at nine.
The County Zoning Administrator’s Office will prepare a map for review at the next meeting of the Redistricting Committee on Tuesday, Sept. 20 , at 6 p.m.