Polk Commissioners to discuss changing office terms to four years

Published 4:58 pm Thursday, March 14, 2013


Rep. party approves resolution for a local bill

The Polk County Board of Commissioners plans to discuss a resolution approved by the Polk County Republican Party asking the state to change the terms of office of commissioners from two and four-year terms to all four-year terms.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

The Republican Party approved the resolution during a convention held March 9.

Commissioners will discuss the resolution during its March 18 meeting, which begins at 7 p.m. in the Womack building in Columbus.

The resolution says 91 counties (out of 100) in North Carolina have four-year staggered terms for their county board of commissioners.

“The Polk County Republican Party feels that the citizens of Polk County would be better served if the Polk County Board of Commissioners have four-year staggered terms,” states the resolution. “WHEREAS, it is also felt that each candidate for the office of Polk County Commissioner has to compete in the same manner as another, both in time and monies, therefore if a candidate wins a seat on the Polk County Board of Commissioners it would be only fair and just that he/she get to serve the citizens for a term of four years.”

Polk County has five commissioners with three commissioners running for election every two years. Currently, the top two high vote getters in an election win four-year terms and the least vote getter gets a two-year term.

If the terms of office is changed to all four-year terms, the county would have three commissioners run for election, then two years later, two commissioners would run with all commissioners receiving four-year terms.

The next county election will be held in 2014, when current commissioners Ray Gasperson (D), Keith Holbert (R) and Ted Owens (R) will be up for re-election.

Polk County Commissioner Vice-Chair Owens, who placed the item on the agenda for discussion said 91 counties already have four-year staggered terms for commissioners.

Owens said commissioners placed it on Monday’s agenda to get public input regarding the republican party’s resolution and there will be no commissioner vote on the subject.

The republican party, any other party, group or individual can send a request for a change to a state legislator who can sponsor a bill. The last day to enter a bill for the current N.C. General Assembly session is Wed., March 20. The Republican Party has not yet sent the resolution to legislators to sponsor.

Owens said it’s so expensive to run for commissioner and to him, it’s just and fair to whoever is elected that they all have four-year terms.

“I’ve thought about it for years both ways,” Owens said. “I just think (four-year terms) better serves the citizens of the county.”

Nearby Henderson and Rutherford Counties are two of the 91 counties in the state that have four-year commissioner office terms.

Besides getting a senator or representative to sponsor a local bill for the state to make a change, the county could also hold a referendum.

According to N.C. General Statute 153A-60, the board of commissioners shall initiate any altercation in the structure of the board by adopting a resolution. The resolution shall briefly, but completely describe the proposed altercations, prescribe the manner of transition from the existing structure to the altered structure, define the electoral districts, if any, and call a special referendum on the question of the altercations.

The referendum may be held at the same time as any other state, county or municipal primary, (regular) election, special election or referendum, or on any date set by the board of county commissioners, states the statute.

If the county chose to make the change by referendum the board would have to implement the change if a majority of voters approved the referendum and could not implement the change if the referendum failed.

“If a majority of the votes cast on the proposition are in the affirmative, the plan contained in the resolution shall be put into effect as provided in this part,” states N.C. General Statute 153A-61. “If a majority of the votes cast are in the negative, the resolution and the plan contained therein are void.”

The next scheduled election in Polk County is for the mayor and council seats in Columbus, Saluda and Tryon and will be held in November 2013.