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Public hearing on Feb. 14 to suggest staggered terms for commissioners

Jesse McWilliams, Butler County commissioner of District 2, is advocating for the adoption of staggered terms for elected commissioners. He would be one of two affected commissioners alongside District 3 commissioner Frank Hickman.

Jesse McWilliams, Butler County commissioner of District 2, is advocating for the adoption of staggered terms for elected commissioners. He would be one of two affected commissioners alongside District 3 commissioner Frank Hickman.

The Butler County Commission is seeking to adopt a staggered term cycle for commissioners, and they’re looking for feedback from the public on the issue.

There will be a public hearing held on Tuesday, Feb. 14 at 4:30 p.m. to discuss the possibility of staggering the terms of the Butler County Commissioners, meaning all five commissioners would no longer be up for election at the same time.

The intention is for the commission to have a local bill before the legislature sometime prior to the 2020 election cycle so that Commissioners from District 2 and District 3 run for a two-year term in 2020 and then run again in 2022 for a four-year term.

By staggering the terms of the commissioners, it would avoid the possibility of Butler County having a total turnover of commissioners in any given election cycle.

Jesse McWilliams III, commissioner of District 2, would be half of the affected commissioners in the event that the staggered term cycle becomes adopted alongside District 3 commissioner Frank Hickman.

McWilliams said that the idea came about when recalling a situation during the 1996 election, before his time as an elected official, when the entire commission was replaced.

The three new members added in 2012 to McWilliams and Hickman’s existing experience was a much smoother transition by comparison.

“[The three new commissioners] said that having Frank and I on that to be able to lead and give them some direction until they were able to get their feet on the ground was a big help,” McWilliams said.

“And any time you’re in public office, there are things that can happen that you don’t have a bit of control over in which voters can turn against the whole group, so to speak, and put everybody out at one time.  But if you have staggered terms, then no matter what you would have two or maybe three–depending on which election cycle—who have been through their schooling and understand the functions of county government to be able to help keep it running smoothly.”

The public is invited and encouraged to attend the hearing to voice their opinions and concerns about such a change.  McWilliams added that the public hearing doubles not only as an opportunity for feedback, but also as a means of letting people know what’s going on prior to being blindsided by a potential bill.

“I really think that people will think this is a good idea,” McWilliams said. “I can’t imagine anybody thinking this will be a bad idea.  If we were going in and saying that we’d extend the term in two of the district to six years to create this, then I could see that. 

“But when it’s just a two-year swing, I don’t see anything but something positive out of that.  To me, it shows that you’ve got leaders who are willing to step up and do what they need to do to make things better down the road regardless of how it affects them.”