Cherokee County’s legislative delegation has introduced bills that would change the way local residents elect county commissioners and members of the Board of Education.
HB 979 would require that county commissioners be elected solely from the district in which they live while the chairman’s post would continue to be elected at-large. HB 978would require school board members be elected from their respective posts in which they live and would allow for a chairperson to be elected county-wide.
Currently, the eastern side of the county votes for the commissioners to represent Posts 1 and 2 while the western portion of the county votes for the Post 3 and 4 seats. The chairman is elected by voters countywide. The Board of Education seats currently are voted on countywide, though the representatives are required to live within their districts. The board elects a chairman and vice chairman at its first meeting of the year.
The proposed bill could effectively remove the school board's chair and vice chair, as Mike Chapman and Janet Read would be drawn out of the posts they currently represent. Under the new maps, Chapman would live in Post 6's territory, while Read would live in Post 4's area.
Post 7 representative Kim Cochran would be moved to the newly-created Post 2 and would be the only board member to live within that district. Four board members would retain their seats -- Post 3 member Michael Geist, Post 5 member Rick Steiner, Post 4 member Rob Usher and Post 6 member Robert Wofford.
School board attorney Tom Roach told the Cherokee Tribune that he has requested to see the maps, but that request has not been fulfilled. However, he said there is no local precedent for board members being drawn out of their posts.
"I have not had a chance to speak to the board," he said. "I assume that will be at the next meeting. To a great extent, we are in the dark on this."
Read told the newspaper that the redistricting is in response to her vote to strike down Cherokee Charter Academy's petition to be approved as a district school.
"They’ve said all along that they would draw me out," Read said. "It’s not a newsflash to me."
Chapman said that while he also wasn't surprised by the map changes, he hopes legislators will change their minds before they vote.
"They do have a chance to reconsider their actions and change what they are doing," Chapman said. "I would strongly urge them to consider doing so."
If approved, the school board's new maps would go into effect Jan. 1.
County Commission Chairman Buzz Ahrens told the Cherokee Tribune that it was convenient for legislators to consider changes to how commissioners are elected.
"We were dragged into it due to the board of education issue," Ahrens told the newspaper. "I don’t think it would have come up unless it was an issue."
The Blue Ribbon Committee, which was tasked with redistricting both boards, made the recommendations earlier this month.
Don’t miss any of the local news you care about. Subscribe to Holly Springs-Hickory Flat Patch’s free newsletter, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.