Last Updated: Jan 8th, 2015 - 07:42:25

Staggered Terms Approved for Prince George County Board
By Sarah Steele Wilson
Oct 10, 2012, 15:07

The Prince George County Board of Supervisors voted to introduce staggered terms for their positions.

Supervisor Bill Robertson had proposed the measure twice before. He brought it before his fellow board members on Tuesday hoping it would not be voted down again.

“You will not find a $100 million corporation on the New York Stock Exchange or the American Stock Exchange that has all of its board members that are elected at one time,” he said. “In all actuality, if you look at Prince George County, all of the boards and the commissions we appoint, they all have staggered terms, except the ones that are elected.”

He said that 54 of 95 counties and 36 of 39 cities in the state have staggered terms and cited examples of 100 percent turnover in other counties with simultaneous terms.

He said that having an entirely new board would damage continuity of operations, something he said the county has no plan to ensure.

“Every organization of any stature has what they call a COOP plan, which is a continuity of operations plan,” he said. “...You are required to have it so if anything takes place, you can continue operation.”

The measure was considered as a public hearing, and several county residents appeared to voice their support for it.

Otis Bryant presented a petition in support of staggered terms with 100 signatures affixed.

T.J. Webb said he wanted to see greater accountability for board members and the establishment of a plan that would hold members to a clearer path.

“You guys need to wake up and listen,” he said, citing the county’s purchase of the Buren property in the face of public opposition as an example of the board not listening. “You can be replaced.”

He said that he felt county residents were not being heard.

“This is not about any one individual’s vision,” he said. “It’s got to be what the county wants, what the residents want. They’re the ones paying the bill.”

James Easter spoke out in favor of the measure, citing a need for continuity.

Former board member Robert Forehand said he thought the plan was a step in the right direction toward the change he would most like to see: the introduction of single member districts.

Currently, the board includes two representatives from District 1 and three representatives from District 2.

Robertson said people speaking in favor of single member districts first brought the issue to his attention and that he still believed that might be in the future for the county.

Supervisor Alan Carmichael, who had previously voted against staggered terms, supported the change last night, saying that public sentiment has swayed views.

“The citizens this time who did speak out, spoke out for it,” he said. “I didn’t have one phone call saying, ‘don’t vote for that.’”

He said that although he was initially concerned about the extra $4,000 to $6,000 it would cost to have more frequent elections, he was convinced it was what the county wanted. He noted that he had also consulted with school board members, who were amenable to staggered terms.

The board voted to pass the measure, with board chairman Henry Parker casting the lone dissenting vote. The change must first be approved by the United States Department of Justice, but is slated to go into effect with the 2015 elections.

During a pre-meeting work session, the board considered the possibility of supporting naming the new traffic circle outside of Fort Lee after Cpt. Jesse Ozbat, a county resident who was killed in Afghanistan earlier this year.

In previous meetings, the board expressed support for honoring Ozbat, but also concern that naming the traffic circle would be unfair to others who made the ultimate sacrifice.

“To name for one, you’re telling the other 76 your son does not amount to the same,” Robertson said, alluding to the other county residents who died in both world wars, Korea and Vietnam.

He said that those men were honored by monuments on the lawn of the old courthouse and said that creating a new such marker for those killed in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan would be a more appropriate measure.

“We all agree on recognition,” Parker said. “There no problem there.”

After deciding that waiting to construct the monument until the current conflicts are complete would be the best strategy, the board heard from several members of the public during the regular meeting.

Wearing t-shirts reading “Team Ozbat,” they spoke in favor of naming the circle after Ozbat and said they had collected 6,000 signatures from county residents in support of naming the traffic circle as a memorial.

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