Walker County Commissioner Shannon Whitfield, who officially took office Jan. 1, will hold meetings on the second and fourth Thursdays each month, the same as his predecessor. But the location may eventually change, if a more suitable place is found.
Whitfield's first two meetings will be held Thursday, Jan. 12, and Thursday, Jan. 26, both at 6:30 p.m., at the Commissioner's Office on Duke Street in LaFayette.
Whitfield initially wanted to hold meetings at the Walker County Courthouse. But that plan changed after he met with Walker County Sheriff Steve Wilson. They decided that the county's Civic Center in Rock Spring would be a better location since it is centrally located.
But that plan changed as well after Whitfield discovered that Georgia law requires public commissioner's meetings to be held in the county seat (LaFayette) and in a government building. "That is going to keep us from holding those meetings, as I had desired, at the Civic Center," Whitfield said.
"We are looking at some options to have those in a different venue in LaFayette, but we don't have that quite worked out yet," Whitfield said. "So for these first two meetings coming up in January, we will have to have those here at the Commissioner's Office in LaFayette."
Whitfield said the reason for finding another venue is to allow for more access to the public. "We just want to be able to have more space for people from the community to attend, with better parking, a building that is more accessible for people with handicap needs and accessibility for ADA-compliant bathrooms and things of that nature that we don't have here in this old building," Whitfield said. (ADA refers to Americans with Disabilities Act.)
Former Commissioner Bebe Heiskell scheduled meetings on Thursdays at 3 p.m. at the Commissioner's Office, though she rarely held more than one or two meetings each month. Some people complained they weren't able to attend her meetings in mid-afternoon due to their work schedules.
"I hope more people will come (to the meetings) and that is one reason I made the commitment through the campaign to change those meeting times to the evening. I am sure a lot of it is going to be issue-driven based off items that are on the agenda. So I fully do anticipate that the attendance may fluctuate over time due to what action items are on the agenda," he said.
"I want to just give the environment and time that is more suitable for the working people of Walker County to be able to attend the commissioner's public meetings," he said.
For those who want to contact Whitfield for county business, his email is Commissioner@walkerga.us.
Josh O'Bryant is a general assignment reporter and covers the Walker-Catoosa County area. He can be reached at the Walker County Messenger office at 706-638-1859 and by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.