published Friday, December 21st, 2012

Jackson County, Ala., to tackle efficiency

Jackson County, Ala.'s five-man governing body this week formed nine committees to work with county department heads, employees and residents to improve efficiency and tackle issues.

Committees -- a first for the county, at least in recent years -- consist of two commissioners and a department head who will keep the rest of the five-man panel informed on money matters and operations, Commission Chairman Matthew Hodges said.

"The budget is one place where we'll really see a difference with the committee system," Hodges predicted. "[Commissioners] will have a better understanding about the departments and how they operate."

Committees are established for administration, public safety, industrial development, sanitation, public works, education, the fire department, sheriff's department and recreation.

The Jackson County Commission is organized as a unit system of government rather than a district system, meaning commissioners are nominated from each of the county's four districts but are chosen in a countywide election, according to officials and the County Commission website.

Commissioners, all newcomers this year, say the committees further a countywide vision.

"We're going to start in January having community meetings out in the communities," Commissioner Tim Guffey said.

Guffey said informal meetings scattered around the county give people who can't make it to Scottsboro for commission work sessions and meetings a chance to voice concerns.

The committees allow commissioners to spread out responsibilities and share more information, Commissioner Stacy Ledwell said.

"We're going to be able to get a lot more done in a lot less time by having different commissioners working with different departments," Ledwell said.

Commissioner Jason Venable said elected leaders are not "looking to micro-manage or anything like that. We just want to help things run smoother."

Venable's pondering some ideas in recreation and tourism, but "it's a little early to talk about that," he said.

The committees will "keep the lines of communication open" between operations and elected officials, Commissioner Dennis Miller said.

The commission can't make good decisions "if they don't know what's going on," Miller said.

about Ben Benton...

Ben Benton is a news reporter at the Chattanooga Times Free Press. He covers Southeast Tennessee and previously covered North Georgia education. Ben has worked at the Times Free Press since November 2005, first covering Bledsoe and Sequatchie counties and later adding Marion, Grundy and other counties in the northern and western edges of the region to his coverage. He was born and raised in Cleveland, Tenn., a graduate of Bradley Central High School. Benton ...

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