Commissioners, at the first 2020 meeting, appointed commission leadership and support staff, as well as setting meeting dates and times for 2020 and adding a $75,000/year position to the county's roster, that of a new Assistant District Attorney.
Stephens County Commission 2019 Vice Chair Dennis Bell, who is serving in his second term on the Commission, was appointed as commission chairman in a unanimous vote at a called commission meeting held Thursday morning, Jan. 2.
Bell, who was first elected in 2013 and reelected in 2017 and also served as chairman in 2015 and 2016, said in a posted statement following his appointment that county infrastructure, especially maintenance of roads and bridges, are a high priority for the commission in 2020.
In his statement, Bell also highlighted the need for additional manpower in the District Attorney’s office, stating that adding an Assistant District Attorney to help current District Attorney George Christian and Assistant District Attorney Suzanne Boykin with the increasing caseload is a vital goal for 2020.
“When cases are handled in a swift manner, it creates a benefit in many ways. Foremost, a victim will feel justice without delay and will reduce the damage and frustration caused by waiting and uncertainty. This is also a crime deterrent when criminals fear the consequences of their actions,” Bell stated. “Speedy prosecution will also assist the Sheriff's Department, by reducing inmate expense while awaiting prosecution and housing congestion. Everyone benefits from a more accurate and fair prosecution.”
At Thursday’s meeting, commissioners took early action on this 2020 goal, voting 3-1 in favor of adding a second Assistant District Attorney position. Commissioner Michelle Ivester cast the sole dissenting vote, with Commissioner Dean Scarborough not present at the meeting.
“We do need another A.D.A., there is no doubt about that and I never argued that, but I didn’t even know they were going to put it on the agenda,” Ivester told Connect News. “We have a planning retreat coming up in two weeks and that is where we look at our budget again and make sure we are good on money … and that would have been more comfortable for me to have done it there instead of doing it right then, since it was not an emergency. And another thing is, Dean (Scarborough) wasn’t there, and when we’re voting on a $75,000 position being added, we need to have all the commissioners there to vote on something like that. And Dean had told us like a month ago that he wasn’t going to be able to be there, so I didn’t understand why it got brought up that way. Evidently they had already talked about it and I didn’t know about it.”
Other priorities highlighted by Bell include support for the Senior Citizens Center and Recreation Department, and providing proper equipment for public safety departments, including the volunteer Rescue and Fire services.
Additional actions taken at Thursday’s called meeting included:
* The unanimous appointment of Commissioner Debbie Whitlock as vice chairman for 2020. Whitlock, who is also serving her second term on the commission, held the chairman position in 2017.
* The unanimous reappointment of Beth Rider as County Clerk.
* The unanimous reappointment of the Law Offices of Sanders, Ranck and Skilling as County Attorney.
* The unanimous continuance of the current set meeting times and locations for Commission meetings, which are held in the Historical Courthouse in downtown Toccoa, with the first work session of each month held at 8:30 a.m. on the second Tuesday, with the meeting immediately following, and the second work session of each month held at 5:30 p.m. on the fourth Tuesday, with the meeting immediately following. The December 2020 meeting schedule will only include one meeting date, which will be the second Tuesday at 8:30 a.m.
The next regular, scheduled meeting of the Stephens County Board of Commissioners will be held on Tuesday, Jan. 14, at 8:30 a.m.