Clay County seal

CLAY COUNTY — The circuit court-appointed Constitution commission charged with drafting a new form of county government is nearing completion of its work. Commission leaders said proposed changes to the form of county government should be ready to go to Clay County Election Board by Tuesday, Aug. 25, in time for placement on the November ballot.

“We’ve met three times a week for the last two weeks. We’ve spent a lot of time reviewing model charters and all the charters and constitutions in the state of Missouri, in Johnson County in Kansas and then national model charters with the idea of having best practices and coming up with the best document we can,” said commission co-chair Greg Canuteson, adding the commission has met for about three hours each session in various locations throughout the Northland at night so that members of public from across the county can provide input as well as watch the commission work.

At the polls June 2, Clay County voters, with 11,142 of the 19,670 votes cast, said they wanted the circuit court to create a commission of seven Democrats and seven Republicans within 60 days of the election to frame a new form of county government that would be put to voters at a later date. The passed ballot measure was Proposition C.

Appointed commissioners had to apply to be on the commission and were vetted by county circuit court judges before being sworn in to serve. Three of the commissioners — Canuteson, Jennifer Langston Justus and Kenneth Honeck — also served on a county commission-appointed exploratory committee last year and early this year that met for eight weeks with members of the public to gather input on how Clay Countians would like to see their government changed.

The informal committee found residents want an expanded governing body and recommended replacing the current three-person commission with an elected council of at least eight.

The court-appointed commission is refining the informal committee’s work for proposed changes being considered for the constitution, which must be approved by voters to take effect.

Changes include expansion of the county commission from three to seven commissioners with a presiding commissioner and six others with some in redistricted eastern and western districts and some serving at large with pay structures that do not include benefits for district or at-large commissioners.

Other possible changes being debated with input from the public include structure for and duties of a county administrator, who shall oversee daily operations of the county and be the county’s budget officer. The administrator would report to the county commission. In addition, the constitutional group is looking into which other county offices shall remain elected such as sheriff, prosecuting attorney and assessor.

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