From the Desk of J. Michael Cross County Executive

A Short Civics Review:

     Executive Assistant Amanda Hicks and I routinely receive calls with questions concerning who to talk to about an issue or concern, the proper procedure to handle a concern, a “how does the system work” inquiry or what department or person to see for a particular problem. The subjects of concern are practically unlimited. This week’s column addresses the various roles of the three branches of government, and hopefully clarifies the “who”, “where” and “why” of county government.

     Our Founding Fathers, in their infinite wisdom, set up a Representative Democracy that featured three branches of Government; The Executive, The Legislative and The Judicial. They also instituted a “Separation of Powers” and a system of “Checks and Balances” to insure that no branch could override or dominate policies, procedures, regulations or laws. These three branches exist at the federal, state and local levels of government. The Constitution and Bill of Rights guarantee our rights as citizens.

     Let’s look at the responsibilities of each branch at the county or local level. The County Executive serves as the chief administrator for the county, overseas the budget, carries out the will of the County Commission, appoints departmental heads, appoints members to committees and boards, and is the chief spokesman for the county. The offices and Director’s of the Ambulance Service, the Solid Waste Department, the Senior Citizen’s Center, the Emergency Management Department and the Veteran’s Service Office answer directly to the County Executive. In addition, the County Executive stays in direct contact with the Sheriff’s Department and the Highway Department as well as other department heads or directors.

     The Fentress County Commission serves as the “Legislative” part of the puzzle. The Commission passes legislation, sets the county’s budget and tax rates, sets general policies and procedures for the county, manages county finances, and approves recommendations from the Executive Branch. As a part of representative democracy, each commissioner represents and speaks for the constituents of his or her district, and votes on county general concerns as well. Commissioners represent “The Voice of the People”.

     The Judicial Branch is represented by the Attorney General and his Staff, the General Sessions and Criminal Judges, the Sheriff’s Department as well as the Administration of the Jail, Probation and Parole, Community Service and the Circuit Court Clerk’s Office. These responsibilities are completely separated from the Executive and Legislative branches of government.

     What about the other elected officials? As outlined by Tennessee Code Annotated, the Fentress County Sheriff, the Road Supervisor, the Register of Deeds, the Fentress County Trustee, the Property Assessor and the Fentress County Court Clerk are all elected officials that supervise and run their own departments. These officials answer to the general public every four years through the election process. That being said, Fentress County’s various departments and elected offices have a history of working together in harmony.

     It is our pleasure to continue to serve the needs of the people of Fentress County. We welcome all questions, concerns and suggestions.

     We can be reached at 879-7713. Executive Assistant Amanda Hicks can also be reached at *protected email* County Commission Meetings are held every third Monday at 6:00 p.m. following a 5:00 o’clock work session. All meetings are open to the public.