Last night was our first of 14 classes, the Interim County Manager, Gary McSwain, gave us an overview
of the course. Only 8 showed up for this free course, but these are 8 people very interested in their County Government.
Everyone attending was asked to introduce themselves and explain their reason for coming. Again and again the answer was that they wanted to know more about how their government works. To say the very least, we weren't disappointed.
Mr. McSwain started with an abridged lesson on North Carolina Counties and gave us a 17 page handout, (chapter 3 of Local Government in North Carolina - 2nd Edition by Gordon P. Whitaker.
Counties were a key part of colonial government in North Carolina. As British control and European settlement extended westward from the coast, the British authorities set up new counties to provide government for the colonists. The governor appointed justices of the peace in each county. The justices served as both the court and the administrators for the county. The justices of the peace appointed constables to enforce the law. They appointed a sheriff to collect taxes, and they appointed wardens to care for the poor. The justices also appointed a surveyor to mark land boundaries and a register of deeds to keep property records. Establishing land boundaries and maintaining records of property were very important to the farmers and planters who settled the colony...
There were 35 counties in North Carolina when the state declared its independence from Great Britain in 1776. After independence North Carolina state government continued to use counties to organize local citizens and provide basic government throughout the state. The General Assembly also continued to create new counties to bring government closer to the people. By 1800 there were 65 counties and by 1900 there were 97. In the twentieth century, only three additional counties were created. The last one was created in 1912, bringing the total to 100.
An interesting little tidbit was that the University of North Carolina was originally to be located in Carthage, the Moore County Seat, but due to the railroad experiencing trouble climbing the hill...it was built in Chapel Hill. Go figure. One item that I take away from this is that the County is a creature of the State. This from the State Library of North Carolina,
A county, according to the court, is a "body politic and corporate." A body politic is a civil division of the state for purposes of governmental administration. A body corporate is a legal entity. In private law, a corporation is a legal person. A county is a legal entity or corporation of a special sort and with a public function. As such, it can buy and hold property, sue and be sued, and enter into contracts - all functions necessary to make its work as a body politic effective.
Two representatives of the County Attorney's Office gave us a power point presentation on the services they provide. Legal services through this office are provided to the "Core Government" like the County Commissioners, Animal Control and Veterans Services among the many. They also provide legal council to County Child Support Agencies and the Department of Social Services. They were adamant about "Who and What They Don't Represent"; the citizens of Moore County and County employees in private matters. Although they understand the confusion, they are not the District Attorney's office.
The Administrative and Personnel staff that gave us the same presentation given to all new County employees wrapped up the first class. All aspects from work-place-safety to workers compensation were discussed. A very energetic and informative Deanne Purvis ended the class with a straightforward talk on personnel policy.
The objective of this course is, "Developing Grassroots Community Awareness.ONE CITIZEN AT A TIME", they're doing a great job!