Baker County Commissioner Bruce Nichols wants to discuss with his two fellow commissioners the possibility of changing how the chairman, who works full time as the county’s chief administrator, is chosen.
Now, voters elect the chairman, which is a specific position on the ballot.
Bill Harvey is the current chairman, serving his second four-year term after being reelected in 2018.
Nichols and Commissioner Mark Bennett work part-time.
Nichols, who was reelected to a four-year term in 2020, has proposed the possibility of having the chairman position rotated among the three elected commissioners on an annual basis.
That’s the system some other counties, including Union and Wallowa, use.
Baker County Commissioners will have a preliminary discussion of the idea during a work session Wednesday, Nov. 10 at 1:30 p.m. at the Courthouse, 1995 Third St. Commissioners won’t be making any decisions.
Nichols said he decided to broach the subject because both Harvey and Bennett have terms that expire at the end of 2022, and both have said they don’t intend to seek reelection.
That would potentially result in the board of commissioners, starting in 2023, having two of its three members with no experience in county governance, Nichols said.
His four-year term continues through the end of 2024.
“What I would like to see happen is each January 1st, this is just my personal thought right now, that the three commissioners pick a chair and begin rotating that,” Nichols said.
Nichols said the commissioner chosen to serve as chair for the year could decline the position.
The two other commissioners could also vote to replace the current chair with a different commissioner.
Nichols said the rotation system for the chair would allow all commissioners to be more familiar with operating the county.
Although shifting to the rotation system could result in Nichols becoming the chair in 2023, as he would be the only incumbent, he said that’s not his goal.
“It may seem like I want the chair; I really don’t care to be the chair but I would just to get this thing started and going in the right direction,” Nichols said.
He has talked to other counties and commissioners and found they are pleased with the rotation system for choosing the chair.
“I’ve heard nothing negative about it,” Nichols said.
Nichols ran against Harvey for the chairman position in the 2018. Harvey won the election and his second four-year term.
Bennett’s position is approximately three-quarters time, and Nichols’ is about half-time.
Bennett’s salary for the previous fiscal year was $36,156, but has increased to $55,836 for the current fiscal year to account for additional responsibilities during the pandemic.
Nichols’ salary for the previous fiscal year was $18,072, and was increased for the current fiscal year to $37,224.