Beaufort News

County Council swears in members for another term

Beaufort County Council will begin a new two-year cycle today by swearing in seven members and electing a chairman and vice chairman.

Weston Newton, who has been elected chairman without opposition since 2003, said he would like to continue serving in that position.

"I would never presume anything, but I am obviously hopeful," Newton said.

He said the chairman acts as a coordinator for the council.

"The chairman presides over the meetings of County Council, appoints the members to the various standing committees of council, prepares the agenda for the County Council meetings, and coordinates the activities of the council as they relate to the administration," Newton said.

Paul Sommerville, who was elected vice chairman by a 6-4 vote in 2009, said the process is an informal one.

"Nobody really runs; you just take nominations from the floor," he said. "There's no active campaign or lobbying."

Sommerville said he would be happy to continue serving as vice chairman.

Council members re-elected in November also take the oath of office today.

Members' four-year terms are staggered, and seven were up for election this year. All seven ran unopposed. The six other members are up for re-election in 2012.

Newton said there are advantages to having experienced members returning to the board.

"Folks on County Council have served with the other members of County Council who are there, and I believe that there is a level of cohesiveness that comes along," he said. "We're working well together, and I expect that that will continue on. We have a good group."

The council will set goals for 2011 during a retreat this month.

Some of the agenda items already are apparent -- chief among them, balancing the county budget.

"We're having to retrench and take a look at all of our expense items because our revenues are dropping and may continue to drop for some time," Sommerville said. "I'd say the biggest thing that we're looking at right now is how to run the county with fewer dollars."

This year, the county will help redraw political district lines based on 2010 Census results. Property values will be reassessed in 2012.

Newton also cited form-based zoning and water quality initiatives as major items to be addressed this year.