Commissioners discuss staggered terms in hearing

Published 10:51 am Wednesday, February 22, 2017

By Cecil Folds

The Butler County Commissioners held a public hearing on Feb. 14  regarding a proposal for staggering terms for commissioners from Districts 2 and 3.

Chairman Frank Hickman opened the floor for any discussion among the commissioners and the public that was present.

Commissioner Hickman told everyone present that the person elected in 2020 to represent districts two and three (presently commissioners Jesse McWilliams and Frank Hickman, respectively would serve a term of two years.

After that, beginning with the election in 2022, each commissioner elected would serve a term of four years. This would keep two or three commissioners on the board with experience at all times.

McWilliams said that the idea came about when recalling a situation during the 1996 election, before his time as an elected official, when the entire commission was replaced.

The three new members added in 2012 to McWilliams and Hickman’s existing experience was a much smoother transition by comparison.

“[The three new commissioners] said that having Frank and I on that to be able to lead and give them some direction until they were able to get their feet on the ground was a big help,” McWilliams said.

“And any time you’re in public office, there are things that can happen that you don’t have a bit of control over in which voters can turn against the whole group, so to speak, and put everybody out at one time.  But if you have staggered terms, then no matter what you would have two or maybe three–depending on which election cycle—who have been through their schooling and understand the functions of county government to be able to help keep it running smoothly.”

Chairman Hickman said there are 67 counties in the state and 34 have staggered terms for their commissioners.

If Butler County goes forward with this system, a local bill has to be passed by the legislature.

The commissioners proposed that the chairman seat should be rotated and all the commissioners agreed that this was a good idea.

“I really think that people will think this is a good idea,” McWilliams said. “I can’t imagine anybody thinking this will be a bad idea.  If we were going in and saying that we’d extend the term in two of the district to six years to create this, then I could see that.

“But when it’s just a two-year swing, I don’t see anything but something positive out of that.  To me, it shows that you’ve got leaders who are willing to step up and do what they need to do to make things better down the road regardless of how it affects them.”