Prince Edward Supervisors Should Add A Ninth, An At-Large, Board Member

Published 4:26 pm Thursday, July 4, 2013

The sitcom-drama Eight Is Enough debuted on ABC in 1977, going off the air in August of 1981. Prince Edward County's version-Eight Is Enough Supervisors-should also be canceled to ensure there are no reruns of the Board's 4-4 School Board appointment vote that produced a coin toss to break the tie.

Prince Edward County should add a ninth seat. With eight members the Board of Supervisors is a tie vote waiting to happen on any issue in every meeting. Local government should not operate on coin flips. Elected representatives should make policy decisions and appointments, not the heads or tails on somebody's quarter.

The easiest solution is simply adding one at-large member, bringing the Board to nine seats.

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Happily, boards of supervisors in Virginia have the ability to determine the number of seats they have. Cumberland, remember, went from three to five districts. Fluvanna County has recently adjusted its membership.

The number of members of the board of supervisors is totally up to the board of supervisors, itself. It is a legislative decision. The board of supervisors has the legal authority to establish any number of members, with a minimum of three. The largest board of supervisors in the state is 10 members. The Prince Edward County Board of Supervisors can go from eight to seven or nine members by adopting an ordinance, following a public hearing.

Counties can also have one-member districts, multiple member districts-Prince Edward currently has a mix-or districts and a member at-large, which, again, may be the easiest path for Prince Edward County to take. Adding one at-large seat would not require redrawing district lines and would not affect any districts or district lines, or any current board of supervisors member's seat.

Some localities also have an appointed, designated tiebreaker, which is someone who is not a member of the board of supervisors and is specifically appointed to vote only in the case of a tie. This seems less effective than simply adding an at-large member, though better than flipping a coin. However, the individual appointed as tie-breaker would need to attend every meeting to be present in case of a tie, naturally, and fully informed, receiving all documents and other materials as given to board members. Otherwise, that tie-breaking individual is no more than a human coin, deciding an issue but without having a thoughtful reason for that vote-like a coin landing, by chance, on heads or tails. Anyone willing to be a seriously informed tie-breaker might as well be an official member of the board, as a ninth member.

Yes, going to nine members would not provide a 100 percent guarantee against a tie vote. If a board member is absent nine becomes eight. But having an even number of supervisors present won't happen often, not every month and every meeting, which is what happens now. The current board is institutionally constructed to create tie votes at any moment in a meeting.

Add a ninth board member, Prince Edward. Flipping a coin isn't good enough.

Eight is not enough.

Cancel this monthly show.