Chatham County Commission and school board work together on new district maps

Local News

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Who you vote for in terms of representation on the Chatham County Commission and Savannah-Chatham County Public School board may change because of the 2020 census.

Commission and school board members met Monday to review proposed changes in district maps that are called for by a growing population in Chatham County.

“The biggest thing people need to know is Chatham County is growing,” said Chester Ellis, commission chairman.

But not all eight districts are growing at the same pace. Ellis says District 8, the Port Wentworth area, has grown the most since the 2010 Census.

The population of the 8th district is listed at 46,772, with the new census data.

“But every district needs to have as close to 36,911 people as we can,” said Dr. Joe Buck, president of the SCCPSS board.

To balance things out, some voters will move out of their districts and into others. Dr. Tonia Howard-Hall represents the 8th district on the school board.

“Our district extended from the Effingham County Line to Gwinnett Street, but since we had so much growth in the Port Wentworth area we had to shave off some of the neighborhoods on the southern portion of our district so so we did lose some neighborhoods,” said Dr. Tonia Howard-Hall, who represents the 8th district on the school board.

“As far as the schools are concerned, that means that Butler Elementary would no longer be in my district, however, I gained a school which is Garden City,” she added.

The school board and commission are working together on the maps because the districts are the same for both commission and board members.

Ellis told WSAV it will be similar on the commission side, i.e. that changes will need to be made to balance the voter numbers in districts.

“It will be the same on the county commission and some who were represented by the 7th district will now be represented by the 8th and some represented by the 8th will now be represented by the 5th district representative,” he told us.

Ellis says the local cooperation between commission and school board members is an effort to have as much input as possible, as state lawmakers will begin statewide redistricting next month.

“We talked to Rep. Ron Stephens, who is the dean of the delegation, and he said if the school board and the county commission can together and agree, then that’s what they will support,” said Ellis.

Both Ellis and Buck say that unlike a decade ago or two decades ago, this map change is being driven by data and not politics. They say that the Metropolitan Planning Commission has worked extensively to analyze the census numbers and to assist members in coming up with new, proposed maps.

“I think we are leaving here feeling really good about the process and, secondly, feeling like it is the fair process for the people of Chatham County,” said Buck.

The maps will be presented to the public in the next month.

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