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June 14, 2014
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Editorial: Appoint an interim commissioner, leave choice for voters

Douglas County needs an experienced leader to fill a commissioner position from July 31 until the end of the year.

He or she should be a trustworthy and respected person who is familiar with the county, its multiple departments and its budget issues.

Ideally, it’s someone who doesn’t want the job permanently.

Anyone who really wants the job should be filing to run for the post in the November general election. Then it would truly be up to Douglas County voters to decide who their next commissioner will be.

The need to fill a vacancy came as a result of last week’s surprising news that Commissioner Doug Robertson will retire July 31 after 33 years of serving the county.

His retirement comes midway through this four-year term, so a new commissioner is to be appointed to serve through December. In January, whoever is elected in November will take on the role for the remainder of the term.

The victor will join Commissioner Susan Morgan on the board at the same time state Rep. Tim Freeman will be sworn in after winning election in May to the post now held by Joe Laurance, who didn’t seek re-election.

It could be tempting for county commissioners to appoint someone who’s truly interested in the job and likely to win the position, so there would be fewer changes ahead.

That appointee would have a distinct advantage, however, over everyone else in the November election. The appointment would put the person in the role of an incumbent when everyone should be on equal ground. Having an appointee in the race might even discourage some candidates from entering the race.

After seven candidates ran for the position being vacated by Laurance, we expect to see plenty of interest in Robertson’s job.

The advantage of appointing an interim commissioner would be the focus the individual could bring to the job. It would be a short-term assignment, primarily aimed at assuring a smooth transition and filling the role of liaison for nine county departments.

In contrast, if someone were appointed who wanted to keep the job, how would he or she find the time to learn all there is to know while also campaigning to retain the seat? And, would decisions be made in the best interests of the county or to win votes in the general election?

We can think of many community-minded people who have recently retired from demanding positions, yet still have plenty of energy and could fill an interim commissioner position, if persuaded to come out of retirement.

There’s also a former county commissioner who’s remained active in county affairs who could fill a seat for a few months.

The exact procedure and deadlines for the appointment haven’t been determined yet, but it’s not too soon to ensure the process is one that offers everyone an equal opportunity to win the seat.

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The News-Review Updated Jun 14, 2014 11:02PM Published Jun 30, 2014 11:30AM Copyright 2014 The News-Review. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.