County Elected Official Turnover Remains High

23 May 2024, by Seth Grigg Share :

In January, 34 newly elected county commissioners will take office. This follows newly elected 33 county commissioners being sworn into office in January 2023. In other words, in just over two years, counties have seen a 50% turnover rate in county commissioners. Most of the turnover is due to sitting county commissioners choosing not to run for reelection. For example, of the 34 newly elected county commissioners that will take office in 2025, only eight will be the result of knocking off a sitting incumbent. For prosecuting attorneys and sheriffs, the turnover rate will be slightly less than normal. Come January, at least nine new sheriffs will be sworn in as will eight new prosecuting attorneys. 

After further reviewing prior year election data, two things are clear: more and more county elected officials are choosing to not seek reelection and many county elected officials have taken office over the last two election cycles. Commissioners in particular have seen the highest turnover rate since 2017. Once new county commissioners are sworn in this next year, nearly two thirds (62.12%) will have taken office since 2021. To put county commissioner turnover in perspective, take a look at the Chart 1 below which highlights the year in which sitting county commissioners took office (effective January 2025):

Chart 1: Year in which county commissioners took office, 1997-2025:

Since 2021, turnover rate has also been high with county assessors (47.73%), county prosecuting attorneys (45.45%), and county sheriffs (47.73%). Chart 2 below visualizes the turnover rate by county office since 2021.

Chart 2: Four year turnover rate by county elected office, 2021-2025:

Looking at all county offices, beginning January 2025, over 50% of all county officials will have four years or less of experience in county elected office. Taking a longer perspective, 71% of county elected officials will have less than eight years experience and zooming out further, 85% of county elected officials will have less than 12 years experience. That is a lot of county elected official turnover over the last decade! Chart 3 which visualizes years of experience among all county elected officials.

Chart 3: Longevity of county elected officials measured by years in elected office, 1985-2025:

Lastly, Chart 4 below measures the year county officials took office by elected office type. The chart helps to visualize the breadth of turnover in county elected officials dating back to 2019.

Chart 4: Year existing county officials took office after first election, 1985-2025:

All the turnover means there will be many new and exciting opportunities for county elected officials to engage with their colleagues through IAC. IAC’s forefathers established IAC to bring together county officials and county official organizations from around the state to better address the collective needs of counties. Since that time, IAC has matured into a robust organization. Because IAC is a membership driven organization, newly and recently elected county officials have an opportunity to shape IAC’s policies and platforms. These policies are established at the IAC Annual and Midwinter Legislative Conferences through IAC’s steering and standing committees. Please take the time this year to attend IAC’s Annual Conference in September and participate in the committee process. In the coming weeks, IAC will open registration for the conference as well as the IAC legislative resolution process. Please join us in September and bring your best ideas forward.

Lastly, as newly elected officials take office, we need veteran county officials to reach out and welcome them to the county elected official family. Get to know your fellow elected officials. Invite them to attend an IAC event with you. Take the time to listen to their questions and provide them with answers based on your valuable experience. While you might not see yourself as a veteran, the reality is, if you’ve been in office, even if only for a few years, you have a wealth of experience to share. At the end of the day, there are only 44 county assessors, clerks, coroners, prosecuting attorneys, sheriffs, or treasurers in Idaho at any given time. Likewise, there are only 132 county commissioners. Only you know what it’s like to serve in your respective office. Lend your knowledge and ability in support of your fellow elected officials.