Newspaper article The Tuscaloosa News

Bill Would Split Tuscaloosa County's Probate Judge, County Commission Chairman Positions

Newspaper article The Tuscaloosa News

Bill Would Split Tuscaloosa County's Probate Judge, County Commission Chairman Positions

Article excerpt

A bill headed to the Alabama Legislature would separate the roles of Tuscaloosa County's probate judge and County Commission chairman.

If adopted, it would allow Hardy McCollum, the current probate judge and commission chairman, to remain the head of the county government while giving up the probate judge seat.

If not, McCollum would have to step down from both. Now 67, he will be 71 when his current term ends in January 2019.

State law does not allow anyone over the age of 70 to run for an elected judge seat, including probate judge.

McCollum said this was the reason he supported the bill, which will be introduced in the Legislature by Sen. Gerald Allen, R- Cottondale, once advertising requirements are met.

"I'm reaching mandatory retirement, and now would be the time to separate them," McCollum said. "As long as I've got something to offer, I'm going to keep working."

By law, whoever holds the office of Tuscaloosa County probate judge is also chairman of the County Commission. Allen's bill would allow McCollum to resign his position as probate judge while retaining his seat as chairman of the county's governing body. McCollum has held both positions since first being elected probate judge in 1976.

According to the bill, the chairman would receive a salary of $105,000.

McCollum now earns $148,936, which is set by state law at $1,000 less than the salary of the highest paid circuit judge in the county.

Under the proposed bill, if McCollum exercised the option to resign as probate judge, the two positions then would become permanently separate. At the conclusion of McCollum's term, the commission chairmanship would become a countywide elective office with a four-year term. The proposed bill would not otherwise change the duties of the probate judge, whose elected term is six years, or the salary for the position.

Allen said some other Alabama counties already have separate offices for probate judge and commission chair and that he is sponsoring the bill to ensure Tuscaloosa County is poised for the future.

Allen said he believes the size of Tuscaloosa County and its progress in gaining national and international industries means the job of probate judge and County Commission chairman has become too much for one person. …

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