Eleven new county commissioners are set to begin guiding Warren County government in three days.
Let’s hope they know what they’re doing.
In an effort to provide officials with training as they take office, the Tennessee General Assembly passed a state law this year which requires all new county commissioners to receive 12 hours of training in their first 120 days. The new law went into effect April 12.
“We’re trying to make sure we don’t make blunders in the future,” said Charles Curtiss, executive director of the Tennessee County Commissioners Association, which pushed for the new law. “There was one case where a county built a new school and paid nothing but interest on it for 20 years. After 20 years passed, they still owed the same amount they borrowed. We’re trying to prevent things like that and I don’t think there’s any question this training will make a tremendous difference.”
Curtiss, who represented Warren County in the Tennessee House for 19 years, says the state usually has a 40 to 50 percent turnover rate when it comes to county commissioners. That translates to 600 to 700 new county commissioners statewide every four years.
In Warren County, 11 of our 24 commissioners will be taking office for the first time. That’s a turnover rate of 45.8 percent.
Thirteen of our commissioners took part in a two-day training session last week in Murfreesboro to fulfill their state requirement. That included three sitting commissioners in Tommy Savage, Scott Rubley and Blaine Wilcher.
“The ethical portion is what made the biggest impression on me,” said first-term Commissioner Joseph Stotts. “They went into great detail about things you need to be mindful of in public office. It’s about serving the people, not personal gain. We should treat the office with respect and show respect for the people who voted us in. If you always keep your focus on the people and making the community a better place, you’ll excel.”
Michael Bell is joining Stotts as a newcomer to the County Commission. He described the two-day training session as very informative.
“We learned what we can do and what we can’t,” said Bell. “The speakers were all very knowledgeable and talked a great deal about procedures and budgets. I made plenty of notes.”
Commissioner Blaine Wilcher has eight years of county government experience and isn’t required to attend sessions, but he went last week to ensure he’s up to date on his training.
“One of the parts I really enjoy is talking with commissioners from other parts of the state to see what issues they’re facing,” said Wilcher.
Having once been a new commissioner himself, Wilcher realizes the value of training.
“I found out early on that I didn’t know how local government works,” said Wilcher. “Experience is the best teacher.”
Newly elected county officials take office Sept. 1.