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Calhoun County voters to decide form of government

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Calhoun County

Calhoun County residents will determine what form of government they want in a Nov. 8 ballot referendum.

Voters will be asked if they want to keep the present council form of government with five council members or adopt a council-administrator form of government and continue with five council members.

Under the current council form of government, Calhoun County Council is both the legislative body and the executive body that runs the day-to-day operations of the county.

The council-administrator form of government has the council as a legislative body that addresses ordinances and county policies. An employed, professional administrator would handle day-to-day functions of the county.

Calhoun County Council voted earlier this year to allow the question to be placed on the ballot.

Voting for the referendum were Council Chairman James Haigler, Council Vice Chair Ken Westbury, Councilmen Cecil Thornton and newly sworn-in Councilman Richard Carson. Councilman John Nelson was opposed.

EDITORIAL: Change will not diminish council power

Several residents have spoken against the referendum, saying it would place too much power in the hands of a single individual: the county administrator.

Sandy Run resident Amy Hill, who has been an outspoken opponent of the change in form of government, said under the current council form of government, citizens are closest to their elected representatives.

"The county-administrator style of government will provide the county administrator a little more autonomy with decisions being made for the county," Hill said.

"In other words an unelected official will have more power," Hill said. "Given that the current administrator advocates for development, you have to ask yourself if that is what you want for our future."

"With great power comes great responsibility," Hill said.

Hill said even though county administration and the S.C. Association of Counties will tout the fact that a large majority of counties in the state already operate under a council-administrator form of government, that does not mean Calhoun County needs to operate like other counties.

"One could argue that if the county administrator had a little more autonomy, things could get done quicker," Hill continued.

"But let's slow down and take a look at Lexington and Richland counties. Is that where we want to go with Calhoun County in a hurry?" she said.

Hill said under the proposed form of government, the administrator will also have a grievance option that "is not currently afforded under the current style of government."

Westbury, who has helped lead the charge to have the matter placed on the ballot, has said the proposed council-administrator form of government does not take away the voice of the people.

Calhoun County Council: Voters to decide form of government

"It will make our government more responsive in a more timely fashion to the people," Westbury said. "It will not affect the way they see their government function. We are not giving up power to the administrator."

"We will still answer to them (constituents) in the same way we do now," Westbury said.

Westbury has said council would still make all the ordinances, and would budget the money and oversee the budget. The council would also be in charge of hiring and firing the county administrator.

Westbury said the council-administrator form of government is more effective and efficient, shifting the day-to-day operations of the county to a full-time administrator.

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Westbury and those in support of the referendum note the county has been operating under a council-administrator form of government for years, according to county ordinance. The referendum would bring the form of government under state law.

Councilman Nelson said the county's current form of government has worked fine and does not need to change.

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