Jefferson County Commission to take on new look

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - Big changes may be coming for the Jefferson County Commission. Four out of five commission seats will not have an incumbent running for re-election. William Bell resigned this week to become mayor of Birmingham, Shelia Smoot is running for congress, and Bettye Fine Collins and Jim Carns say they are not running for re-election.

UAB political pollster Larry Powell says this will be tempting for a lot of candidates. "Some people will have second thoughts because of the danger they are facing and the problems we are facing. But ultimatley when a politician sees an open seat they are going for it," Powell says.

The only incumbent commissioner seeking re-election is Bobby Humphryes. Humphryes says he plans to search for the other four district seats. "I'm hoping to find someone conservative in all the districts that want to work on problems here and find a solution,"Humphryes said.

Commissioner Shelia Smoot says in her final months she will continue to oppose bankruptcy as a solution to the sewer debt crisis. "I can tell you one thing, this county commissioner has stood through the test of time, no bankruptcy. In nine months, no bankruptcy. We don't need bankruptcy. This county is going to be fine," Smoot said.

Commissioner Jim Carns says the next commission will have to deal with possibily losing the occupational tax, and the millions of dollars in revenue it brings in. "We got the occupational tax coming up for a vote in 2012. We got a potential tsunami in 2012. A financial tsunami  for the county," Carns said.

But, Powell says don't expect too much from whoever wins. "We are  going to have at least four rookies on there. They don't know the system. They don't know what you are going to have go through to make the county work,"Powell said.