It’s becoming something of a “headline of the day” within the fractured county government and law enforcement communities of Polk County. So here’s today’s headline, and it is a surprise:
Late Wednesday, County Commissioner Jason Ward told Facebook followers that “I have accepted an incredible job opportunity and we will be relocating to Jacksonville, Fla., over the next couple of months. I am sure we will have more details to share later but right now we want to thank all our family, friends, and neighbors that have made the last 11 years since we moved back to Polk County amazing.”
That relocation will mean a replacement will have to be named to the county commission, something that hasn’t occurred there in slightly more than two years. That’s when former Cedartown City Commissioner and businessman Scotty Tillery was “selected by Probate Judge Linda Smith to fill the unexpired term of County Commissioner Billy Croker,” according to WGAA’s archives. Coker died in February of that year. Tillery was unopposed when he ran for the commission seat in 2016.
So now the process will begin once Ward submits his resignation. And that’s when the real politics will start.
The commission is split right now over allegations of cover-up and favoritism within the Polk County Police Department as detailed in a poignant letter from Polk County Sheriff Johnny Moats dated May 5. In a called meeting Monday night, a majority of the commission voted to “audit” the police officers and staff. Moats said 18 county police officers had approached him with concerns within the agency — and some with plans to leave. That audit, by the way, is to be conducted by the county attorney — himself an employee of the county government.
So what’s next: Who gets the appointment and which side of the current split will he/she side — if any. That’s likely a headline for a few weeks to come.
For now, the formalities begin when Ward resigns. He closed his Facebook post with something that might ease some of the controversy within the community: “In the meantime, if you need a place to stay when you head to the beach just let us know!”