The Long County Commission began the process Tuesday of staggering its terms to avoid having all five of its members running for election at the same time.
Under the plan, commissioners, who ordinarily serve four-year terms, will serve a single two-year term in 2020 in Districts 2, 3 and 5.
Many county commissions have staggered terms. Long County’s newly appointed chairman, Mike Riddle, who was elected in November to represent District 2 and is the only new commissioner on the board, said in an email the change will help the commission avoid high turnover and provide "a continuity of leadership from board to board over election cycles, which is crucial in South Georgia’s fastest growing county."
The measure was approved unanimously at the county commission’s first meeting of 2017 after motions from Riddle, District 3 Commissioner Willie Thompson and District 5 Commissioner Bobby Walker volunteering that their district representatives serve the two-year term in 2020.
"I am very pleased that Commissioner Walker and Thompson took the lead at our first meeting together to
continue moving our county forward by volunteering that their districts would accept one two-year term in 2020. I was proud to also join them in volunteering that my district would do the same," said Riddle, a firefighter and Republican who covered Long County for the Courier for years.
As chairman his first goal is "to provide the leadership for us to hire a full-time county administrator/grant writer. That trumps everything as far as I’m concerned," Riddle said in an email. "We have needed this position for eight years now, and I’m going to do all I can to fulfill this obligation to the people of Long County"
Riddle also called for unity on the county commission.
"The other immediate goal is to do all I can to bring unity to the board, we have two commissioners from the last board, and two from the term before that, I’m the only new one," he said. "All of these commissioners are good men, who only seek to do what they perceive to be the best for Long County. We don’t have to agree on everything, but what we all do need to agree on, is in knowing that even if someone doesn’t see eye-to-eye with me, they want what’s best for the county too and leave our disagreements at the door."
Riddle said he also wants to attract more business to the county, one of five in Georgia listed among the top 100 fastest growing in the United States, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Long County’s growth rate from 2010 to 2015 was 22.7 percent. But most of that growth has been residential, which has put pressure on the county’s infrastructure.
"The other big thing I hope for is to sell our community better with the goal of bringing more business to our citizens," Riddle said. "We have a great community here, it’s our quality of life, that is bringing people over here in droves, but we can’t just keep growing houses, we’ve got to get more business to bring in more revenue."
Clifton Deloach was appointed vice chairman at Tuesday's meeting.
Carolyn Leonard contributed to this report.