Declaring that residents are "fed up" with their squabbling, the chairman of the Montgomery County commissioners on Thursday proposed letting his two fellow commissioners chair meetings on a rotating basis.

"People are fed up with the bickering," said Chairman James Matthews.

The gesture was largely symbolic - Matthews would still be the chairman of record, still get an extra $2,999, and still be the ranking official in the county.

But it appeared to be a bid to mend his long-standing feud with his fellow Republican, Commissioner Bruce L. Castor Jr. After their election in 2007, Matthews stunned observers by announcing a power-sharing alliance with the board's lone Democrat, Joe Hoeffel.

Under that deal, Matthews became chairman, Hoeffel vice chairman, and Castor the odd man out.

Matthews said Thursday that he thought rotating the chairman's duties at board meetings would allow for more diversity of opinion and show the commissioners attempting to work together, especially as the county faces a difficult budget this year.

Hoeffel said he welcomed the move, calling it "really a historic offer."

Castor wasn't as effusive. He said he hadn't decided if he wanted the gavel.

"I want to think about it," he said. "I just learned about it this morning."

Matthews said after the meeting that he expected both of his counterparts would warm to the idea.

"I think it serves the public's interest," he said.

Contact John P. Martin at 610-313-8120 or jmartin@phillynews.com.