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BoC to look at county government set-up
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Effingham County commissioners will meet with an Association of County Commissioners of Georgia representative next month to discuss a possible change in how the county government is organized.

Dave Willis, the ACCG’s government relations manager, is scheduled to talk with Effingham commissioners at their Nov. 19 meeting about what organizational structure might best suit the county’s needs. Commissioners discussed a possible reorganizing of how the county’s personnel is structured and whether they prefer to have a county manager or a county administrator.

“For the record, I favor a county manager form of government,” said Chairman Wendall Kessler. “You need a management structure with people who can take care of their department. An administrator has to keep his hand on every facet. I know every commissioner has their own opinion. I think ACCG is as qualified as anybody to answer any question any board member may have as to the pros and cons of how to do this or how to do that.”

Interim county administrator Toss Allen said how the commissioners wish to view the top employee in the hierarchy will drive how the organizational chart is assembled and also could shape future financial policies.

“The best way may be to figure out what you want the person to do,” he said.

The proposed organizational structure, he said, does not have many changes.

“It seeks to divide services into like groups of services,” Allen said.

Under that schematic, the county administrator or manager would supervise administrative services. Directors of human services and development services also would be created, but Allen said those positions would be filled from within. Those positions and the services under their supervision would be co-located in the same facility, Allen added.

“The reason for doing so is to create efficiencies within those departments, to give what we believe is a better managerial structure coming down,” he said.

Commissioner Steve Mason said the question for the board is what kind of structure it wants, since a manager and an administrator’s powers are different.

“An administrator administers the board’s directions. A manager runs the county,” he explained. “The manager has the power to run the county the way he sees fit, and the county manages him. The commissioners tell the administrator what to do; a manager tells the county what he did.”

Kessler said the county’s current top employee is a “hybrid.”

“And the manager can hire and fire,” Kessler said. “The administrator cannot.”

He also said part of the problem, to his thinking, over the history of the board of commissioners is commissioners trying to circumvent the board.

“Staff and government would feel a lot more at ease and know who they answer to under a true managerial form of government, rather than being concerned with a commissioner jerking them here or jerking them there,” Kessler said. “I think we need a neutral person to ask questions of. I think it would be good to have an unbiased party come here and have a good discussion and move forward.”