Habersham County is a political subdivision of the State of Georgia. It was created for civil and political purposes and acts under powers given to it by the state. The county's governing authority is the Habersham County Board of Commissioners.
Habersham County is divided into five districts; and the five members of the Board of Commissioners are elected at-large for staggered, four-year terms. The chairman and vice-chairman of the Board of Commissioners are elected by the Board annually.
The Board of Commissioners meets on the third Monday of each month at 6 p.m. in the Jury Assembly Room on the first floor of the courthouse in Clarkesville. Special meetings are called when necessary. The public is invited to attend these meetings.
The general duties of the Commissioners are:
- To enact resolutions and ordinances for the general health, safety and welfare of the residents of Habersham County
- To levy taxation when necessary to finance the operation of the county government
- To plan for future public service needs
- To provide necessary services to safeguard the well-being and safety of the residents
County Commissioners have authority over the construction and maintenance of local roads, election facilities and equipment, airports, bike trails, and parks and recreational facilities. The commission's taxing power allows counties to have law enforcement personnel, patrol cars, courthouses and jails.
County Commissioners affect the lives of residents more directly -- and more often -- than the governor, state senators and representatives, judges, the mayor, or the sheriff. County Commissioners have taxing and spending power over the departments that record your birth, your marriage, your vote, your death, your burial, your purchase or sale of real estate and the legal uses of that property, then through probate, the disposal of your property, both real and personal. A Commissioner has a role in the establishment and often in the operations of hospitals, emergency medical service, and rescue units. County Commissioners even oversee the collection of school tax through the Tax Commissioner's office.
Commissioners may administer any function for which they are allowed to tax, and the Georgia Constitution enumerates those purposes. They include care for indigents, establishment and maintenance of libraries, 911 centers, fairgrounds, civic centers, senior centers and child daycare.
As populations and the need for services have increased over the past 50 years, counties are offering even more services. Landfills, fire and police protection, water and sewer departments, animal control, economic development and land-use planning have been added to the Commissioners' oversight. Since the nuclear scares of the early 1950s triggered the creation of the Civil Defense, counties have become responsible for what is now known as Emergency Management to cope with storms, floods or terrorist attacks.