Discussion got somewhat heated at Tuesday’s meeting of Bedford County Commission’s rules and legislative committee meeting at the historic courthouse when members were trying to decide how to appoint new commissioners to the four standing committees.
Committee Chair Biff Farrar suggested the new commissioners send to him their recommendations for which committees—rules and legislative, law enforcement, courthouse and property, and finance management—they prefer to be on.
Commissioner Greg Vick then produced a resolution that already had the new commissioners’ preferences in it. “As a member of the rules committee, I called each of the individuals and asked them to place their preference on there . . . .”
Farrar responded, “I think you were out-of-order doing that.”
Vick: “I don’t know why I’m out-of-order.”
Farrar: “Because you weren’t the chairperson . . . . We don’t need a resolution for something that the committee can do, Commissioner Vick.”
Vick: “Mr. Chairman, you were wrong last month and you are wrong again. Now, that’s just enough. How much further do you want to go with this?”
Vick clarified that it’s the committee and not the chairperson who is responsible for the nominations. This issue of appointing commissioners was discussed at the last rules and legislative meeting in August.
A list was given at the August meeting with the new commissioners randomly appointed to the vacant committee seats. Bedford County Mayor Chad Graham corrected Farrar for wanting to go with the suggested nominations until January without approval of the Board of Commissioners.
“I don’t think the committee can act on behalf of the commission,” Graham had said.
Newly elected Commissioner Drew Hooker said, “I think most of the commissioners were pretty comfortable with the seats we got put on and what was recommended last time. I just see a lot of animosity on this particular vote, but it seems you all came up with a solution last month in identification where people would fit best.”
Commissioner Scott Johnson, another newly elected commissioner, said, “I’m going to serve wherever I’m put . . . .”
Vick said he would still like to see this resolution introduced on the floor at the next Commission meeting, which is Oct. 11.
Vick also expressed concerns over the delay on nominations. “These people should’ve been seated last month,” Vick explained. He added that for the second month in a row, several commissioners “have denied seven commissioners their rightful place on standing committees.”
Typically, the new commissioners are selected in August, based on preference and seniority, then there is an election in December.
“My point is that we have rules. Are we going to follow the rules or not? We’re not going to go by what we’ve always done, or what Mr. [Eugene] Ray did or what Paul Parker did or whoever else. That’s what we heard last month,” Vick said.
Farrar said the new commissioners should be nominated, then go by their priority preferences. “They’ll get to choose where they want to serve. And if they get 10 votes, that’s where they’ll serve.”
Graham confirmed that the rules allow for the process to go this way.
Commissioner Bill Anderson added, “When I got here, nobody asked me where I wanted to serve. I was told where I was going.
Later on in the meeting, Anderson said, “The only thing that bothers me about this, Mr. Mayor, is that it becomes a popularity contest at some point.”
What the rules say
As outlined in Local Rules under Rule VI, elections with nominations (including standing committees) state: “When the Chairperson is to receive nominations from the floor, a member may nominate only one other person. The floor will be kept open until every member has had an opportunity to nominate a person if he so desires before the nominations are closed.”
The election will proceed as the ballots are cast by voice vote and a majority of the full Board of Commissioners is required for election. The rules further state: “If no one is elected on a given ballot, the person receiving the smallest number of votes will be dropped and the ballots cast again until a person is elected. A run-off may be held between those receiving the highest number of votes.”
Graham said they will put the preferred seat positions on the agenda and then nominations will be taken from the floor by other commissioners. The nominees that get 10 votes will be appointed to that committee. Since this was not done in the September meeting, these nominations and votes will be completed in the next full Commission meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 11, at 7 p.m. at the Bedford County Courthouse.