Archived Story

Polk to consider 4-year term referendum April 1

Published 11:58pm Tuesday, March 19, 2013

David Maxwell said it makes good sense to go to a referendum.

“As my commissioners, and really as my representatives, I’d like to charge you with seeing that this thing stays in Polk County,” Maxwell said. “If you let legislators in Raleigh make this decision I will not be just hurt; I’ll be damn mad at you.”

Jonathan Bole said the only reason he sees in the resolution to go to four-year terms is that 91 other counties do it that way.

“Why should we be pushed into something because 91 other counties do it that way?” Boles asked. “We have the power to vote them into office and to vote them out of office. We are in a very real sense their employer.”

He said in every organization he’s been part of, the employer sets the terms and conditions of the employee’s employment.

Virginia Walker said Polk is the third smallest county in the state and all the other counties may not even recognize their commissioners. She said Polk residents recognize their commissioners in the grocery store, in restaurants.

“I was disappointed that we even have this issue come up,” Walker said. “In little ole Polk County. Come on.”

She said Polk has had its terms and it’s worked well and asked why we can’t just keep it that way.

“But if we’re going to try this out, let’s have the whole county vote on it,” Walker said.

Owens said he appreciates the comments and said speakers sort of crucified the Republican Party. He said the party approved the resolution and then wanted it to be public. When he was one of three commissioners in the mid 1980s, the board was changed to five members and guess who changed it, Owens said. The Democratic Party, he said, who didn’t ask for a referendum and didn’t make it public.

“We didn’t know until it happened,” Owens said.

Owens said the resolution might not be sent to Raleigh after commissioners tell the Republican Party what was discussed during the meeting. He also said Sen. Ralph Hise and Rep. Chris Whitmire knew about the resolution because they attended Polk’s convention.

“We’re all part of the county, we’re all neighbors,” Owens said. “It doesn’t do any good to not have your facts straight.”

He said any individual, another party or group can request legislation. He also said he doesn’t disagree with a referendum.

Commissioner Ray Gasperson motioned for commissioners to follow the steps outlined in the general statutes calling for a special resolution (which is the first step to call for a referendum). He suggested the referendum be held during the 2014 county election due to higher turnout than the upcoming municipal election and also asked that Hise and Whitmire decline to accept and file legislation on the subject.

Commissioners came to the consensus to put it on the next agenda (April 1) whether or not to go forward with a referendum. The board also directed the county clerk to alert Hise and Whitmire of the board’s decision Monday night.

County clerk Beth Fehrmann sent both Hise and Whitmire an email Tuesday, March 19 stating that it was the consensus of the board to consider holding a referendum to determine commissioners’ terms with the item to be placed on Polk’s April 1 meeting agenda.

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