By Rosemary Horvath
District 5 Clare County Commissioner Rick LaBoda was elected board chairman Wednesday, succeeding District 7 Commissioner Jim Gelios.
LaBoda served last year as vice chair. Dale Majewski, District 1 Commissioner, now fills the post.
The new chairman said he learned a great deal from long time commissioner Gelios.
Both men had careers in public service. Gelios retired from law enforcement downstate. LaBoda retired in 2012 as magistrate of the 80th District Court in Clare County, after 23 years. He started out as a probation officer.
Gelios declined to be a nominee for another one-year term. He viewed LaBoda as a potential candidate because of his experience as a county employee and in budgeting matters.
“It was my hope he would want to be chairman. I think he’s ready,” Gelios said.
LaBoda said he has no specific plans for the coming year but was gratified commissioners “took care of one big issue” Wednesday.
They authorized Sheriff John Wilson to hire an information technology specialist for his department, which includes dispatch and emergency 911.
Jim Neff manages a one-person department handling all electronic equipment at the county building.
Wilson broached the topic of hiring a second I.T. specialist with commissioners late last year after a systems failure that had the sheriff rectify the problem himself over a weekend. He urged commissioners to hire a specialist because his department relies heavily on electronic equipment and would be in jeopardy if solutions weren’t made quickly.
The sheriff’s department and the county will share cost of a new position.
“This person will work at the county building with Jim and fill in when he is away,” LaBoda added.
Base salary was set at $40,000.
Wilson is expected to name a committee to review and interview applicants. LaBoda said the right person capable of handling problems as they arise will be hired.
Being without a second I.T. person has created a hardship for county departments, the new chairman said. “Technology is moving at such speed today we have to keep up.”
Commissioners with the exception of Lynn Grim who was absent agreed to advertise to fill vacancies on the planning commission.
Commissioner Jack Kleinhardt advised recruiting a group representing different facets of the county. This falls in line with requirements set forth by the state’s planning enabling act adopted in 2008.
LaBoda acknowledged some townships in the county oppose planning and zoning, thus making it difficult for the county to move forward. He resides in Hamilton Township that has an active planning commission, he said.
The new chair favors townships deciding for themselves whether to plan and zone. Meanwhile, the county board “will proceed with caution,” he said. “I don’t want it to happen like before.”
His reference was made regarding two different groups of volunteers on successive planning commissions who resigned protesting the failure of commissioners to follow guidelines of the enabling act or extend responsibility to members.
LaBoda admitted he isn’t acquainted with the new state law and hasn’t studied material online. One drawback he claims is being “a low tech guy in a high tech world” and he doesn’t have a computer at home to use.
In other business, commissioners
RECEIVED report for lockdown training presented by emergency management Jan. 10 and 17 from 8 to noon. Both trainings were identical to allow county building employees to choose one in order to keep the building open for customers all day.
APPOINTED David Allen Merritt as alternate member of the Soldiers Relief Commission. The term expires Jan. 18, 2015.
DISCUSSED salary for administrator Tracy Byard. A performance review will be performed before April per her contract.