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Commissioners boot decision on how they pick chair

Henderson County commissioners on Monday booted a decision on the potentially divisive question of a mandatory rotation of board chairmanship — although three commissioners signaled their opposition to changing the way they select the board's leader.

Commissioner Grady Hawkins suggested the idea of rotating the chairmanship every year so that all five commissioners serve as chair. Currently the board elects the leader during the organizational meeting the first Monday of December. Over the past three years, the chairmanship has changed each year, with Michael Edney, then Tommy Thompson and this year Charlie Messer serving as chairman.
"We've rotated the last three years and I think it's worked well," Edney said. "We can do what we're doing with or without legislation and given the home rule feelings that I have I'd rather us to decide it than Raleigh to decide it and I'd leave it as it is."
Thompson also said he thought the rotation has worked well.
"The thing that concerns me is a mandated rotation," he said. "I think what we have has worked well. I don't see any reason to change it."


Messer also said he was leaning toward no change.
Hawkins asked whether Messer, Edney and Thompson would endorse all five commissioners getting a chance.
"Is it the intent to rotate through all five commissioners or just three seats?" he asked. "I think rotation is a good idea. I think we should continue rotating through the entire board until it comes back around again. One of the things that I think is a big advantage of rotation is it improves the cooperation among all board members and it improves communication."
He suggested the rotation could start with a random drawing and then go from one district to the next in numbered order.
Commissioner Larry Young said he favored rotation unless the order selected a new commissioner. A newly elected commissioner should serve two years before becoming chair, he said.
Hawkins urged the change, saying the board has made no change in the makeup of the board or how it picks the leader since the county went from three to five commissioners in 1973.
"The chairman of the Board of Commissioners is not a great powerful position," he said. "It's a coordinating job and an opportunity to lead the board and try to get things done that this board wants to accomplish."
Board members agreed to take up the issue of selecting the chair when they also review and potentially adopt new district lines at their Nov. 20 meeting. The commissioners ordered the redistricting to balance the population of the five districts based on the 2010 census.

The rotation idea is the second change Hawkins has floated in how the chair is selected. He suggested too that the commissioners could go to a countywide elected chair, a change that would require legislative approval. The proposal died for lack of support.