One Down: The County Commission says "Elect the Sheriff" 

In morning deliberations on proposed changes in the county charter regarding five elected Shelby County officials, members of the County Commission reached agreement on one office, that of Sheriff. By super-majority vote (requiring 9 votes of 13 for passage), the commission agreed to put on the August ballot a provision to elect the sheriff, limit any given sheriff to three four-year terms, and to establish in the county charter a definition of duties consistent with those previously assumed to be his under state law.

The charter change was necessary because of a judicial finding last year in Knox County that several offices in that county were not covered by the state constitution. The ruling was adjudged applicable to Shelby County, as well -- leaving wide open the terms, means of election, and duties of five Shelby County offices: sheriff, trustee, assessor, county clerk, and register.

The County Commission subsequently undertook to recommend charter definitions for each of these offices, subject to a referendum on this year's August ballot, and had conducted several ad hoc public meetings to gauge citizen opinion.

On Monday, three commissioners offered their own initiatives for charter provisions governing the office of sheriff -- chairman David Lillard, Deidre Malone, and Sidney Chism -- and the one presented by Chism was eventually accepted as he basis for a vote. Chism's initiative was virtually identical in its terms to those ultimately adopted by the commission, except for his wish to exclude term limits.

Additionally, a language change urged by commissioner Wyatt Bunker clarified the sheriff's duties so as to keep them as broad and county-wide as they have historically been under what had been presumed constitutional authority.

The commission will meet again Wednesday to consider charter proposals for the other four offices -- trustee, assessor, county clerk, and register.

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