- Cullman, Alabama


August 11, 2013

Expand the county commission

CULLMAN — The idea of converting the Cullman County Commission to a five-member body elected from districts arose in 2010, gaining some support along the way.

But more than two years later, Cullman County remains only one of three counties in Alabama that is sticking to the antiquated structure of representation. Two associate commissioners are elected at large. In the next election cycle, voters choose the chairman.

While the current group of commissioners appear to be working well together, the situation could easily slide back into a contentious relationship over a single issue or the arrival of a new commissioner in the three-member body. Residents should also consider that three commissioners is hardly personal representation for 80,000 people.

The holding of power by so few people leaves room for all sorts of things to go wrong in this powerful government body. Dividing the county into districts would provide residents with a more intimate form of representation. The system also provides a wider range of views to consider the many issues that come to the table of the commission.

Concerns about the cost of larger commission are simply not prohibitive. One of the best options is to have part-time commissioners and a full-time chairman, or full-time administrator. Some counties that have districts rotate the chairmanship to ensure each area has the distinction of leadership on a regular basis.

Counties across Alabama have abandoned the three-member commission because it does not provide balanced representation for residents. With a population of 80,000 or more citizens, Cullman County would best be served by an expanded commission with districts. Residents deserve a broader base of representation and an opportunity for a closer relationship with those they elect.

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