County Commission's new look

Nov. 1—This month's meeting of the Cullman County Commission will mark the start of a new era in local government, as the elected body takes on a brand-new look.

When the commission meets on Wednesday, Nov. 16, it will do so for the first time in decades as a five-member elected body. After years of legislative back-and-forth with local residents who sought the change, the Alabama Legislature in 2020 approved a measure transforming the commission's makeup, with Gov. Kay Ivey signing it into law.

The 2020 bill specified that the five-member changeover would take effect beginning with the 2022 election cycle, which this year effectively already has resolved the question of who will sit in the commission's two new seats, with all four of the seats opening up during this year's election cycle.

The four associate commissioners who'll be sworn in this month are all Republicans — two of them new to the office, and two more incumbents who kept their seats following this year's GOP primary. Newcomers Corey Freeman (District 4) and Kelly Duke (District 3) will join current associate commissioners Kerry Watson (District 1) and Garry Marchman (District 2), as well as commission chair Jeff Clemons, as the body's two new members.

Clemons, also a Republican, won his seat in 2020, while Watson and Duke ran unopposed in this year's primary election. With no Democratic Party opposition waiting in this month's general election, Marchman won a contested primary race in May of this year to retain his seat; while Freeman won a June primary runoff to earn his associate commissioner's spot, which also fielded no Democratic opposition.

Before they take office, the four associate commissioners elected this year must first take their oath of office. That will unfold only hours before the new five-member commission's very first meeting: A Nov. 16 swearing-in ceremony for Freeman, Duke, Watson and Marchman will be held at 10 a.m. on Nov. 16 in the commission's conference room on the first floor of the Cullman County Courthouse.