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Why I volunteered for the County Charter Committee

Jim Hoover
Mayor of Emmitsburg

(7/1) Iíve been repeatedly asked why I volunteered for the Frederick County Charter Committee. Obviously, Iím interested in government; while working with other municipal and county governments Iíve discovered what I believe to be some pros and cons of our current Commissioner form of County Government. As well as some pros and cons for a County Executive form of government.

In the Commissioner form of Government there is no one senior elected executive, each commissioner maintains both executive and legislative authority. Typically, the Board of County Commissioners relies on the Board President to be the primary person to handle executive matters but, that is just an agreement between the elected officials. It is not an official function or a granted authority of our county government.

In the current commissioner form of government; Frederick County has five county commissioners with equal power and authority. The only added authority that I know of is granted to the president of the board. He has the added responsibility of running the meetings. Since all commissioners share equal powers and authority every decision, both executive and legislative, must be approved by at least three of the five commissioners. The only way to gain a consensus on every decision means that the board needs to meet in public and vote on every issue.

This is a major point of interest to me. Itís not practical to believe that five individual "part-time" commissioners are going to meet as needed, as often as necessary to attend to the day to day business of the County. Itís normal for individual commissioners to meet with current and potential business owners, residents and other elected officials to discuss and or address public concerns. But, as an individual commissioner they are not able to commit to anything other than he/she will look in to something on behalf of the requestor. If three or more county commissioners meet together to discuss County matters they must meet in public or announce a closed executive session, if the item(s) being discussed meet the legal criteria for a closed meeting.

Personally, I believe a County Executive may be a more efficient way for our County Government to operate. Iíve heard from several people that believe if we go to a charter government that a County Executive will have too much power or authority. If the proposed charter is well written I do not believe that this will be a problem. I also agree that a County Executive should not have more power or authority than the Board of County Commissioners (BoCC). Itís important that the BoCC controls the amount of authority granted to a County Executive. The BoCC should retain the ability to delegate power and authority to a County Executive and at anytime the BoCC should be able to increase or decrease the amount of power and authority by creating or amending a policy or ordinance as often as they deem necessary.

Similar to my position as mayor, a County Executive may be granted the authority to speak on behalf of the county. Though, he/she will be restricted to the parameters voted on and approved by the BoCC. The best example that I can give for charter government is Frederick County municipal government. All twelve (12) municipalities in Frederick County are charter governments. Each mayor or burgess in Frederick County is the equivalent of a County Executive.

Read other articles related to the Charter Writing Initiative