A Case for Less Government

Union County is one of eight counties within the state of Georgia governed by a Sole Commissioner. With less than 22,000 citizens I feel I have better representation by the numbers, than I did when I lived in Gwinnett County where each commissioner represents about 180,000 citizens.

Of Georgia’s 159 counties, 102 have less than 30,000 residents. If we are serious about less government in our lives perhaps we should start at home with more of our counties reverting back to a Sole Commissioner form of governance.

Union County is fortunate to have a dedicated public servant, Lamar Paris, serving as our Sole Commissioner. As a result things get done quickly and efficiently. And with a re-election rate of 60+% over multiple terms, it would seem his performance is satisfactory for the vast majority of voters.

Of course there is a pretty severe downside electing the wrong person in a Sole Commissioner form of government. But doesn’t that put the onus back on each voter to look behind the campaign ads and rhetoric and to do their homework so that the right person holds the office? We voters have gotten lazy in our campaign due diligence because a multi-person commission has reduced the impact of the negative consequences of electing one or two of the wrong people.

With the return of personal voter responsibility we could have less government at our county level and Georgia could lead the way in showing the rest of the country how to do more with less. Then, who knows, maybe we could start to cut the more than 325 Georgia cities with populations of less than 2500. But the cities are a subject for another day.

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Saltycracker
Saltycracker

I guess you are making a case for the 102 counties with less than 30,000 population to go to the sole county commish. Georgia is the only state in the US with sole commissioners.

It is interesting the choices and money folks will spend locally to have governance. The question is to understand what does this mean to non residents of the areas and what business is it of outsiders ? In $$$…..

According to wiki – a couple are more than 30k:
Counties with sole commissioners
Currently in Georgia

Bartow
Bleckley
Chattooga
Murray
Pulaski
Towns
Union
Walker

Saltycracker
Saltycracker

P.S. acknowledging that small populations with incorporated governance is strange the case for less government is, to me, less Federal. A lot less Federal.

Nathan
Nathan

My county (Walker) has a question on both the Republican and Democratic ballots about going from sole to multi-member commission form of government. It’s been an “anti-establishment” objective in my county since 2011. I’ve tuned out the debate in our county because it becomes a discussion about the performance of our incumbent commissioner (who has been in office since 2001 and is running for re-election again this year). Our county Republican Party had a multi-member commission plank in the platform until we won…it’s no longer a plank in our platform. I’m still undecided on how I’ll vote on the question.… Read more »

drjay
drjay

it’s hard for me to picture anything other than boss hogg in his white suit driving a bull horn cadillac when i hear about these sole commissioners…and it seems like i remember a story about one of these cats being really really petty a few years back about a last minute decision of not letting the political party opposite of his have their county convention in the basement of the courthouse and putting them in a pickle with little to no recourse because these sole commissioners have pretty broad powers in their fiefdoms…

Dave Bearse
Dave Bearse

It’s well-established that in a very general sense that a group of people is capable of making better decisions than an individual.

A better route to less governance per capita may be would be county consolidation. The average Georgia county is geographically half the size of typical eastern and central US counties.

Benevolus
Benevolus

Socialist!

Bart
Bart

Reducing political bureaucracy is almost always a good thing, good post IrishPat.

But I would go further by suggesting Georgia reduce the number of counties, cities and school districts starting with those that are not financially viable. Not likely to happen, but if we were serious about reducing the size and scope of government, this would be the top priority.

Calypso
Calypso

“…but if we were serious about reducing the size and scope of government…”

Ah, therein lies the rub. Who is ‘we’?

Ellynn
Ellynn

The question becomes the number of commissioners. One of our clients is a county with 7 commissioners in a smallish population. There is infighting and trying to get more for their voting block. Not to mention the racial divides at the time of setting the districts. This is a county that would benefit from 3 commissioners or 4 commissioners and an elected chair.

Charlie
Charlie

If you want to kill any bold idea, send it to a committee.

While Pat notes the downside of having the wrong sole commissioner, given the public’s detachment from political races that aren’t for President I’m in favor of reasonable consolidation of power that also consolidates accountability. I’m even more in favor of folks taking remedial civics classes to learn what levels of government hold what power so that they can place the credit or blame accordingly.

Saltycracker
Saltycracker

Blame ? When it hits the fan in multiple layers of governance, no one takes the blame. “We feel your pain, but our hands are tied….”

Raleigh
Raleigh

Interesting subject. I remember in good ole Cherokee county when the single man county commission was voted out. It was such a failure that the single man system was voted back in. Of course that didn’t last long and we have a multi-man commission once again. Way back then county commissioners were known a “Road Commissioners”. Anyway I reminisce. There isn’t much power that actual rest with county government. All the laws governing the what and how of county government is spelled out by state laws. This is true of how all revenue is collected and what is collected. County… Read more »

Will Durant
Will Durant

The consolidation of counties has been discussed many times but there is no way local politicians would ever vote themselves out of a job. Is there any possibility that some criteria of services vs. taxes could be set where the state could force consolidations? I realize this would require a constitutional amendment but many of our rural areas could benefit from joining the 21st century where the county seat doesn’t have to be within a day’s wagon ride. In conjunction with this action if the state is no longer in the property tax business then it shouldn’t be taking the… Read more »