One of the questions I get on the campaign trail as I run for Elkhart County Commissioner is, “What is a County Commissioner and what do they do?” So, I will begin a series of posts, informing the public about the office of County Commissioner in Indiana so you can know the importance of this office and why you should cast your vote accordingly, depending on the philosophy of each candidate.
There are minor exceptions to some of these duties, particularly if you live in Lake, Marion and St. Joseph counties, but all other counties follow the information I will give you.
The structure of county government in Indiana is separated among various officeholders to create a system of checks and balances. Power is diversified to prevent corruption and make county decision making inclusive. Of course, the ultimate authority rests with you, the voter, as important county positions are elected rather than appointed by other elected officeholders. And it needs to stay this way. Recent activity at the State House has seen a push for legislation that would make many of these positions (Commissioner, Auditor, and Sheriff to name a few) appointed or consolidated into a single officeholder, severely concentrating power. We need to continue to make sure we can elect our local county officials to hold them accountable and keep them answerable to the people.
There are 3 county commissioners, which as a whole, are called the Board of County Commissioners or Board of Commissioners. Each Commissioner is technically a representative of a district in the county. However, the entire county can vote on all the Commissioner races, not just those in the district you live in. In essence, each Commissioner is practically a representative of the entire county as they conduct business that may affect you regardless of where you live in the county.
County officials, including Commissioners, are elected to 4-year terms of office. They have unlimited terms of office. However, we know that anyone serving in an office with unlimited terms can have their term-limited by the voters by not electing them again! This is the ultimate in term limits. In 2020, two of Elkhart County’s Commissioner seats will be on the Primary ballot. Early voting starts on April 7, 2020, and the election is on May 5, 2020. In the Indiana primary election, as a voter, you must declare a party affiliation and you will receive a Republican or Democratic Party ballot. Then, those who win in the primary will be on the ballot for the General election to be held on November 3, 2020. The winners will take office on January 1, 2021.
The Board of County Commissioners is the executive and legislative branch of the county government. The Commissioners have jurisdiction over matters concerning either the exercise of regulatory (such as via ordinances) or administrative powers. In contrast, the County Council (7 elected officials which include district representatives and county at-large members) have jurisdiction over the fiscal matters. In other words, the Council has authority over who spends the money, how much is spent and where the money will come from in the budget or funds available. The Commissioners and the Council work hand-in-hand, along with all the department heads and their employees, to facilitate the business of the county.
In a future post, I will continue with the specific duties of the County Commissioners and how it can impact the public. Please give me feedback in the comments below as to whether this information is helpful. If you would like for me to address a specific issue relative to County Commissioners, please contact me.
As a Republican candidate for County Commissioner, I ask for your vote on May 5, 2020, or in early voting beginning on April 7, 2020.