Oconee County commissioners last night asked County Attorney Daniel Haygood and Administrative Officer Jeff Benko to draft a resolution for next week’s meeting that would call for the county to be reunited in a single district in the Georgia House of Representatives.
While Board of Commissioners Chairman Melvin Davis expressed doubts about the initiative, Commissioners Chuck Horton and Jim Luke made strong statements of support for such a resolution. Commissioner Margaret Hale also said she wants the county to have a single representative.
Davis votes only in the case of a tie among the four other commissioners, so he is unlikely to get a vote when the issue comes back before the Commission next Tuesday. Commissioner John Daniell did not comment on the matter at the meeting last night.
Horton and Luke said they wanted to support Rep.-Elect Regina Quick, who said during her campaign for a seat in the 117th House District in July that, if elected, she would attempt to overturn the redistricting in 2011.
That redistricting split the three Oconee County precincts of Bogart, Malcom Bridge and Athens Academy from the other 10 precincts in the county.
Horton said he saw no advantage for the county to be the minority part of two districts and that he wanted to give Quick and Rep. Chuck Williams the support they needed to revisit the issue in the January meeting of the General Assembly.
Williams was elected last month to represent the new 119th District, which, as with the 117th District, is dominated in terms of population by Clarke County. Oconee County had been whole in and dominant in the 113th District, created in the last redistricting in 2004.
Luke, who owns a local hardware company, said he has heard nothing but criticism of the change in districts. He praised Quick for pursuing the revision and criticized the leadership of the Georgia House of Representatives for dictating what should be done on the matter.
Davis challenged Quick, who attended the meeting, saying she should be soliciting feedback from officials in Clarke County as well as in Oconee County. He also expressed doubt the effort to change the districts would be successful.
Quick told Davis she was seeking the guidance of the Oconee County BOC regarding “what’s best for Oconee County” and that she didn’t think the opinions of officials in Athens was important in that matter.
Quick is proposing to change both the 117th and 119th house districts, by shifting the three Oconee precincts into the 119th and replacing them with Clarke County precincts now in the 119th District.
In an email message sent early this morning, Quick told me she plans to speak with Clarke County officials if the Oconee County BOC passes a resolution asking for the change she is proposing.
Rep. Williams did not attend the meeting last night. At a meeting with Oconee County officials earlier this month, he said he didn’t expect the House leadership to be receptive to the change and that he felt there were advantages to Oconee County being represented by more than one House member.
Only two people spoke regarding the redistricting issue last night when Chairman Davis solicited citizen reaction. Both Russ Page and I supported the resolution proposed by Horton and Luke.
Davis took the unusual step after we spoke of asking Blake Giles, editor of The Oconee Enterprise, to include a call for more citizen feedback in his article on the meeting in the paper.
Giles noted that request near the end of a story appearing on page 9 of tomorrow’s paper, available electronically tonight to subscribers.
The BOC meeting next Tuesday will begin at 7 p.m. in the courthouse in Watkinsville.
The full video of the discussion regarding the redistricting resolution is on the Vimeo site of Oconee County Observations.