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Shifting committee structures is a good idea

Proposals to expand the number of county board members serving on some committees is a good idea that should be implemented.

A fundamental part of American democracy is that having more voices and viewpoints involved in decision making is better than having fewer. The challenge is finding the balance between having adequate representation and having an unworkable number of people unable to accomplish anything. This is especially true of government committees.

The government of Taylor County is run by committees — 45 of them to be exact. This is an impressively large number of committees for a county board of just 17 people.

These standing committees deal with everything from the commission on aging to zoning and land use planning. Many of the committees provide oversight to specific areas of government with the members becoming experts on those areas.

Under Taylor County’s system, the committees have significant independent power to make decisions for their departments and set policy. These policies and decisions, in turn, impact everyone in county government and to some extent all county residents and taxpayers.

There has been concern raised by some on the county board that unless you are on one of the powerful committees, your voice and views don’t really count and, by extension, neither do the voices of your constituents. This is a debatable point, because any member of the board can attend any meeting they want to, yet the perception remains.

Supervisor Lester Lewis has worked to change this perception by bringing more people to the table in a very literal sense. He has proposed plans to change the remaining three-member county committees to be five person committees.

This is a good move. A five person committee is still a very workable group, but also provides more opportunities for new viewpoints and opinions.

Along with this, the county’s rules committee last week suggested merging the finance and personnel committees into one seven-member body. Considering the amount of overlap between these two committees in decision making and membership, merging the two committees makes a lot of practical sense. It would also lead to improved efficiency as decisions on positions and payrolls would not need to go through two separate committees.

It is impractical for every county board member to weigh in for every routine decision. That said, the county board must also work to check the assumed or granted authority of any committee to take actions which could negatively impact the whole county.

Expanding committee sizes and combining committees of similar focus, such as finance and personnel, would serve to maintain the balance between workability and ensuring as many people as possible are involved in decision making.