By Scott Robertson
The Tennessee State Comptroller’s Office has given a verbal all-clear to the Washington County Commission to begin consideration of cutting the number of commission members. Still, Commissioner Joe Grandy, the chairman of the Reapportionment Committee, plans to visit that office Feb. 24, before the next committee meeting. In the meantime, Grandy says, he’s asking the comptroller’s office to provide written confirmation.
Jason Mumpower, chief of staff for the comptroller’s office told News & Neighbor his office has no objections to the commission’s plan to cut its own ranks. “The county has the ability to put a plan in place,” Mumpower said, “though the changes it makes can only take place after the next election.”
Grandy says Mumpower has made similar statements to other county officials, but that Mumpower’s remarks, “seem to be a little bit contrary to some of the written documentation out of the comptroller’s office that our county attorney Tom Seeley has referenced.”
“So one of the things that I have asked Tom to do is to reach out to the comptroller and to get something in writing before we start down a path,” Grandy says. “He’s in the process of doing that.”
Even if that document should arrive before the next full commission meeting Feb. 23, Grandy says he will visit Nashville to make sure the county and state are in complete agreement on all details.
“I have a meeting scheduled with Jason on the 24th in Nashville to have a face-to-face conversation and try to clearly understand from them what they want to see in Washington County as we begin to change the number of commissioners, potentially the number of districts, and of course, reapportionment.
The only real concern for the comptroller’s office, Mumpower says, is that the population virtually equal from one district to another in every district. “They need to take the map and divide it into rationally drawn districts,” Mumpower says. “For instance, if they choose to have 15 commissioners and keep the 10 existing districts, they need to make sure the voters are equally dispersed.” That would mean that there would be a roughly equal number of taxpayers per commissioner, not per district, should there be more than one commissioner per district.
Aside from that, Mumpower says, “Our office is here to provide assistance and to verify the plan on a population basis.”
Grandy says the number of commissioners will almost certainly drop from its current 25. How large the drop will be remains anyone’s guess at this point. “The range that I have heard,” Grandy says, “just in people’s casual conversations, is anywhere from 11 to 18.”
“As a committee,” Grandy concludes, “the first two things we have to get our arms around is a number of commissioners that we want to try to move toward and how many commissioners we should have per district.”