BY DOTTY NIST
County commissioners have unanimously approved the recommendation of the Walton County Redistricting Committee for redrawing of county commission and school board districts in the county.
The decision took place at the July 12 Walton County Board of County Commissioners (BCC) regular meeting at the South Walton Courthouse Annex, following a presentation on the redistricting plan, brief discussion by the commissioners, and input by several citizens.
Appointed by the BCC and the school board, the committee had been tasked with recommending boundaries that would make districts as nearly equal as possible in population, based on recently-obtained data from the 2010 U.S. Census. After holding five meetings, the committee had voted to recommend a plan identified as Map 3D.
Map 3D would extend District 4 south across the bay to take in the Miramar Beach/Sandestin area as far east as Mack Bayou Road north of U.S. 98, running west along the north side of U.S. 98 to the U.S. 98/Scenic Gulf Drive intersection and then expanding south to run between the north side of Scenic Gulf Drive and the bay to the Holiday Road area. The district would then extend west to the Walton/Okaloosa County line between the north side of U.S. 98 and the bay.
It would establish District 5 as a “beach district” beginning on the west at the Walton/Okaloosa County line south of U.S. 98, continuing east between the gulf and the south side of U.S. 98 to the Holiday Road area, then running east along the south side of Scenic Gulf Drive to the intersection of Scenic Gulf Drive and U.S. 98. The district would continue east between the south side of U.S. 98 and the gulf to Mack Bayou Road. At Mack Bayou Road, District 5 would expand north to the bay to take in part of what is currently District 1, continuing east bordered on the south by the gulf and on the north by the bay as far as U.S. 331 on the east. At U.S. 331 District 5 would drop to the south side of U.S. 98 and continue east to the Walton/Bay County line bordered by U.S. 98 and the gulf.
District 1 would expand westward to take in Freeport and northward along U.S. 331 as far as Rock Hill Road, then northward on Walton Bridge Road and CR183 up to I-10.
District 2 would expand southward down CR-183 and Walton Bridge Road to Rock Hill Road.
District 3 would remain basically unchanged except that it would expand northward along Long Road as far as the Alabama line and westward to the Okaloosa County line.
Historically south Walton County residents have sought stronger representation in county government . By delineating one district totally south of the bay and two other districts taking in portions of south Walton County, the proposed map plan would result in the opportunity for people living south of the bay to run for three county commission/school board seats as compared with the two seats (District 5 and District 1) open to them with the current districts.
While there was criticism during the redistricting committee’s deliberations that Map 3D would dilute representation for south Walton County residents, others countered that this was not the case since Walton County commissioners are elected “at large,” not just by voters in their districts.
Walton County did have the other type of representation know as “single-member” districts for its five county commission districts between 1984 and 1988 but opted to resume electing commissioners at large at the end of that period.
State statute provides counties with the option of changing to single-member districts though approval of a majority of county voters. However, this option currently requires the number of county commissioners to be increased to seven and for the additional two commissioners to be elected at large. Considering a change to single-members districts was not part of the redistricting committee’s task, although a citizen did bring up the topic during the meeting sessions….
Read the full story in the July 21, 2011 edition of the Herald Breeze.