The Guilford County Board of Commissioners started practicing a new skill at a Thursday, Oct. 7 work session – cartography. 

In September, the commissioners opened up the once-a-decade process of redrawing commissioners’ districts by asking the public for suggestions.  At the afternoon work session, the board reviewed four maps submitted last month by interested parties using a web-based map-making tool the county provided.

When the commissioners first began the process, some board members thought there would be a whole lot of people offering up suggested maps. However, in the end, only seven maps were submitted – and three of those had to be thrown out.  One submission came in past the September 30 deadline and two others failed to meet criteria put forth by commissioners.

Three of the seven maps were created by the same person, which means the county’s call for maps only generated four mapmakers.

Chairman of the Board of Commissioners Skip Alston pointed out at the meeting that there may be other maps that county commissioners themselves bring into the fray.

The board must approve a map that keeps the population of each of the eight districts roughly equal.  In addition, the commissioners hope the new map keeps things relatively simple and “compact”– that is, it won’t have crazy district lines running every which way.

At the meeting, Stephen Dew, who manages geographic and map data for the county, led the discussion.   

Guilford County Attorney Mark Payne (pictured above) also weighed in several times and, at one point, he apologized for “high-jacking the presentation.”

The deadline for the board to adopt and submit the final redistricting map to the state is Thursday, Nov. 18.  After they submit it, state legislators can take their sweet time deciding whether or not to approve it.

“We’re the only ones who are bound by those dates,” Payne said of the deadlines, adding that state lawmakers have a lot more leeway than the commissioners.

The board didn’t take any action on the maps. However, Alston said that in early November the board will hold a public hearing for all those who want to to weigh in on the decision.

Payne pointed out that the county wasn’t required by law to hold a public hearing on the new districts but was choosing to do so to be able to assure that public input is part of the process.