ATLANTA—State Rep. Allen Peake (R-Macon) recently pre-filed House Bill 682, which would allow counties to petition their local legislative delegation to make the office of county commissioner, along with other county-wide elected offices, non-partisan.
Currently, the only counties where state law allows the offices of the county governing authority to be nonpartisan are Georgia’s seven consolidated governments.
“My local elected officials asked me to introduce this bill so they can more effectively work together and solve problems that matter to local taxpayers,” said Rep. Peake. “Since Georgia has a long tradition of providing flexibility at the local level for self-government, I think this bill makes sense and I look forward to debating the merits of this legislation with my colleagues during the upcoming General Assembly.”
Most municipal elected offices are currently nonpartisan. HB 682 would provide the ability for the offices of county commissioner, sheriff, district attorney, solicitor-general, clerk of superior court, tax commissioner, coroner, and surveyor to also be nonpartisan if approved by local legislation in the General Assembly.
This process would mirror the one already in place for the offices of school board members and probate judges, which presently have the option to become nonpartisan through a local act. In Georgia, 107 counties have chosen to create either a non-partisan county school board and/or a non-partisan county probate judge.
HB 682 has already received the support of the Association County Commissioners of Georgia (ACCG), the Georgia Sheriffs’ Association, the Georgia Coroner’s Association, and the Georgia Association of Tax Officials (GATO), which have publically said that they support giving counties and local taxpayers the option to hold nonpartisan local elections if that is the desire of their community.
“The issues that county elected officials deal with center around the health, safety and welfare of a community,” said Ross King, executive director of ACCG. “Choosing the best form of government to manage those matters should be left up to local leaders. We appreciate Representative Peake’s initiative to advance this conversation under the Gold Dome.”
“Sheriffs’ Offices in Georgia have an unparalleled mandate to provide law enforcement and other critical public safety services throughout the state. Representative Peake’s timely effort to allow local control over the question of nonpartisan elections for local officials is a common sense approach supported wholeheartedly by the sheriffs. Partisan politics can serve no role in the manner in which sheriffs’ offices fulfill their mandate,” said Oconee County Sheriff Scott Berry, president of the Georgia Sheriffs’ Association.