Macon-Bibb government committees set

jgaines@macon.comJanuary 17, 2014 

The new Macon-Bibb County Commission has a committee structure.

The three-member Committee on Committees decided Friday afternoon to set up four regular committees, set their meeting schedule and picked five members for each one.

The committees are: Operations & Finance, Economic & Community Development, Public Safety, and Facilities & Engineering.

The committees will all meet on the second and fourth Tuesdays of each month, with the legislation they pass appearing for final approval at the full commission’s next regular meeting. Those commission meetings are held on the first and third Tuesdays of the month.

At each new committee’s first meeting, members are expected to choose a chair and vice chair. Mayor Robert Reichert and Mayor Pro Tempore Bert Bivins, prevented by the government charter from being voting members of committees, are not assigned as committee members.

Reichert, Bivins and Commissioner Gary Bechtel comprise the commission’s Committee on Committees. Newly elected Commissioner Larry Schlesinger attended, too, but he spoke little.

In discussion as they set up the Committee on Committees, other commissioners had varying opinions on how many ways committees should divide up business and legislation, Reichert said.

“We had some people say two is not enough, nine is too many. But it seemed to me that we could go with two, three or four,” he said. Reichert had pushed for just two committees.

On the other end of the scale, Bivins suggested eight.

“I kind of want to have a situation where everybody can chair something,” he said.

Reichert suggested four as a compromise, in which all committee members would have a chance at becoming a chair or vice chair. Whatever the decision, it could be changed later if necessary, he said.

Bivins said he didn’t really like having just four committees, but was willing to bend. Assuming that would be the structure, he and Bechtel began filling out names of potential members for each. They were in close agreement, and it took only a few minutes to reconcile discrepancies.

The committee lists are:

• Operations & Finance -- Commissioners Bechtel, Elaine Lucas, Larry Schlesinger, Scotty Shepherd and Virgil Watkins;

• Economic & Community Development -- Commissioners Ed DeFore, Lucas, Schlesinger, Al Tillman and Watkins;

• Public Safety -- Commissioners Mallory Jones, Lucas, Schlesinger, Shepherd and Watkins;

• Facilities &Engineering -- Commissioners Bechtel, DeFore, Jones, Shepherd and Tillman.

That put every commissioner on at least two committees, while Lucas, Schlesinger, Shepherd and Watkins are on three. Chairs and vice chairs are expected to be chosen at the new committees’ first meetings.

Lucas urged setting up a Rules Committee, as Macon City Council had, Reichert said. He suggested that the full commission could act as a rules committee by meeting as a “committee of the whole.”

Commissioners previously agreed they’d like to concentrate meetings on Tuesdays, and the Committee on Committees stuck with that.

Bechtel wanted to have committee meetings on the first and third Tuesdays of each month, allowing the full commission to give final approval in the evening of what committees talked about earlier the same day.

That’s how Bibb County operated; Bechtel and Bivins are both former county commissioners.

Reichert agreed with holding committee meetings all on the same day, but he urged that those meetings take place on the second and fourth Tuesdays, so the media, public and commissioners would have a week to absorb proposals before they came up for a final vote.

Macon-Bibb County Attorney Judd Drake agreed with Reichert, saying that only a few hours’ notice of what commissioners would ratify might fall foul of Open Meetings laws.

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