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TUESDAY, JANUARY 9, 2007
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Cross calls for full-time chairman, countywide elections

By Kristen Bishop
kbishop@decaturdaily.com 340-2443

MOULTON — Lawrence County District 3 Commissioner Bradley Cross continued his push for a return to the old countywide voting system and called for a full-time chairman Monday.

The countywide voting debate re-ignited at the December commission meeting when Cross said the entire county, rather than individual districts, should elect commissioners.

A federal judge stopped at-large voting in 1986 after a voting discrimination lawsuit. Chairman Mose Jones, who has held the District 1 seat since the ruling, said Cross' suggestion would set the county back 20 years in the fight against discrimination.

"The legislators have already gone through and set up the district system. It's been done," said Jones. "The old system didn't work then, and it wouldn't work now."

Jones also opposed Cross' suggestion to amend the law to include a full-time chairman.

Hard to get in touch

"We are all part time and only meet once a month. ... It's hard to communicate with five commissioners when we've got jobs and can't always get in touch," said Cross. "A full-time chairman would be paid enough to make a living and take care of what he needs to do."

Jones said if the county were to pay for a full-time chairman, it would have to eliminate the county administrator's position.

"You would have to pay the chairman and hire a clerk under the chairman," said Jones. "Right now, we're getting a double whopper, if you want to call it that, because the administrator is acting as administrator and clerk."

Common ground

The two commissioners, who are at odds on most issues, did agree, however, that the county could run into problems if the commissioners don't switch to staggered terms.

All five commissioners are elected at the same time, once every four years. If all commission seats are filled by new officials, there would be no experienced commissioners to guide the newcomers, said Jones.

The commissioners voiced their concerns to Rep. Jody Letson, D-Hillsboro. Letson told them that if they passed a resolution, he would draft a bill for the state Legislature to approve.

District 5 Commissioner Alma Whitlow, who was elected in November, said she was not ready to make a decision and asked the commission to hold a meeting to discuss the matter.

The commission voted to table the motion until its February meeting.

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