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History of Weld County's Home Rule Charter

Following a 1970 amendment to the Colorado Constitution, which allowed for counties to adopt a home rule charter, the residents of Weld County began to study the benefits a home rule form of government could provide. In 1974, residents elected a 21-member commission to begin drafting Weld County’s own set of governing rules.

Seven and a half months of study and scores of public hearings went into the charter before it was presented to the voters in September 1975. Passage of the charter made Weld County the first county in the state to adopt its own home rule charter. Since then, only one other, Pitkin County, has followed course. Weld County's Home Rule Charter went into effect on January 1, 1976.

The charter brings government closer to the residents of Weld County and gives them the authority to manage their own affairs. Changes in the charter are permitted by a majority vote of the residents.

To review the Weld County Charter, follow this link

Prominent among the changes brought about by Weld County’s home rule charter were:

  • Enlargement of the Board of County Commissioners from three to five
  • Establishment of a five-member, non-partisan, unpaid Weld County Council
  • Abolition of the post of county surveyor
  • Consolidation of the existing 12 departments into five, each to be the responsibility of an elected commissioner
  • Provision for a full-time county attorney and staff, rather than hiring an attorney on an hourly basis
  • Expansion of the number of members on citizens’ boards to bring better representation in the fields of planning, health, and zoning adjustment
  • Establishment of a county personnel division to provide standards for employment qualifications and pay
  • Provision for enactment of ordinances to establish policy and giving preference to local bidders if price and quality are competitive

 

Preamble to the Home Rule Charter
“We, the people of Weld County, Colorado, in order to avail ourselves of self-determination in county affairs to the fullest extent permissible under the Constitution and laws of the State of Colorado, and in order to provide uncomplicated, unburdensome government responsive to the people, and in order to provide for the most efficient and effective county government possible, do hereby ordain, establish and adopt this Home Rule Charter for Weld County, Colorado.”
Summary from the 1975 “Blue Book”
“County government, as Weld County has known it, dates  back to territorial days before Colorado was a state. It has remained essentially unchanged for more than a century. In 1970 an amendment  to the Colorado Constitution granted to counties the power to adopt home rule charters.

Home rule, in this context, refers to the power of a local government to manage its own affairs and to draft its own charter. At the general election in 1974 the electors of Weld County voted to for a Charter Commission for the purpose of drafting a proposed charter. After 39 regular meetings, more than 35 sub-committee meetings and 14 public hearings, the proposed charter was submitted to the County Commissioners.”
How the 1976 Charter structured county government

BiddingCounty contract bidding is to be “open and competitive.” Weld County bidders are to be given preference if the price and quality are competitive. The Commissioners must state their reasons publicly when other than the low bid is chosen. A ten day study period is required on all bids over $2,000.

Budget and Finance - Any increase in the mill levy about 5% must be referred to the County Council or the voters.
 
Citizen’s Advisory Boards - The Planning and Public Health Boards and the Board of (Zoning) Adjustments are expanded from the current five members to nine members each. Six members will be chosen from geographic districts, three at-large. All appointed board-commission members are limited 
to two consecutive three-year terms.
 
Commissioners - The Board of Commissioners went from three members to five. Each Commissioner can serve a maximum of two consecutive four-year terms.
 
County Attorney - The Board of Commissioners will appoint a full-time County Attorney. Presently, the County Attorney is hired on an hourly basis as needed. 
 
County Council - The Charter creates a 5-member, unsalaried County Council. They will be elected on a nonpartisan basis, 
3 from districts, 2 at-large for a maximum of 2 four-year terms. The duties of the Council are to set elected 
officer salaries, review government performance and appoint a performance auditor if deemed necessary, 
fill commissioner vacancies, have authority to increase the maximum budget under certain circumstances 
and rule on conflict of interest.
 
County Departments - The Charter provides for five major departments which are coordinated by the commissioners. The Commissioner Chairman is elected by the Board annually and coordinates the Finance, Purchasing and Personnel Departments.
 
Elected Officers - The Sheriff, Treasurer, Assessor, Clerk and Recorder, and Coroner are retained as elected posts. The only elected position to be abolished is the County Surveyor whose functions will be placed in the Engineering Services Department. Professional experience and educational qualifications are required for Sheriff and the appointed Undersheriff. No professional qualifications are set for other elected offices, although the chief deputies in the Treasurer and Assessor offices must meet professional standards.
 
Personnel - A central county personnel system is established. Controls are set on county officer and employee conflicts-of-interest.
 
Recall, Referendum and Initiative - The right of the citizens to petition for recall, referendum, and initiative is granted by the Charter. The electorate also may petition to amend or repeal the Charter.

History of Amendments
There have been 17 amendments to the Weld County Home Rule Charter throughout the years. Only one amendment was started by petition (1995, Amendment 15-5).  

Ad Hoc Home Rule Charter Study Committees have been used only twice in the history of the Charter, once for amendments in 2001 and again in 2007.

The Board of County Commissioners is not required to form an Ad Hoc Charter Study Committee but can in order to involve the public in reviewing and making recommendations regarding the governing document.
How Amendments Occur
The preamble of the Home Rule Charter states: “We, the people of Weld County, Colorado, in order to avail ourselves of self-determination in county affairs…establish and adopt this Home Rule Charter for Weld County, Colorado.” This is important because the charter is not only the foundation for how our county government is formed and administered but also how it can be changed. Charter review committees have been used several times during the past 40 years to make recommendations regarding changes and updates to the governing document.

The only group that can change the structure of Weld County’s government are the residents of Weld County.

There are two ways to amend the county charter – by petition(s) signed by at least 5% of the electorate or by resolution adopted by the Board of Commissioners. Either route leads to the same point – a public vote by the residents (registered electors) of the county.

A charter review committee can be tasked to review specific items within the charter or the entire charter itself. Following their review, the committee provides recommendations to the Board of Commissioners regarding any suggested amendments. The Board of Commissioners can then, by resolution, submit any proposed amendment(s) to the qualified electors. Any recommended amendments, however, must be confined to a single subject for purposes of the ballot; there may be several single-subject amendments on the ballot.