Kent County Commission will begin the year shorthanded

When the Kent County Commission convenes for the first time in 2014 next week, one seat will be vacant and one district unrepresented.

Instead of the usual 19 commissioners, only 18 will be on hand at the Jan. 7 meeting, because the resignation of incumbent 4thDistrict Commissioner Gary Rolls will be official by the time the 8:30 a.m. meeting gets underway.

The meeting will mark the first time in recent memory the county board will begin a year with less than a full contingent. The board’s most important duty in January will be to appoint a replacement to fill Rolls’ term, which runs through 2014.

Rolls tendered his resignation Dec. 12; it takes effect on New Year’s Day. He is facing felony criminal sexual conduct and evidence-tampering charges in Kent County Circuit Court. Rolls has served on the commission since 2003.

County Commission Chairman Dan Koorndyk told the Business Journal that filling the 4thDistrict seat with an appropriate candidate would not be an agenda item for the year’s first meeting, but he added the process is likely to be discussed.

At the last meeting of the county’s Executive Committee, Koorndyk outlined the appointment process. He said the committee will review the applications and make a recommendation or recommendations to the full board by Jan. 10. If interviews are necessary, those will be held Jan. 16.

“As a standing committee, (the interviews) will be subject to the Open Meetings Act,” said Daryl Delabbio, county administrator and controller.

The full board will make an appointment Jan. 23. State law requires the commission to make the appointment within 30 days following an official resignation date, which means board members will have to select a new 4thDistrict commissioner by Feb. 1.

“That appointment is only going to be for one year,” said Koorndyk.

Koorndyk said he wants commissioners to give him the attributes they’d like to see in a candidate. He said if interviews are held, each finalist will have to answer the same questions.

The county is accepting applications through Jan. 6. Interested parties should send a cover letter and resume to the Kent County Board of Commissioners, 300 Monroe Ave. NW, Grand Rapids, MI, 49503. Both can be faxed to 616-632-7585. Send all submissions to the attention of Jamie Groom, administrative assistant.

Those who are interested in applying must live in the 4thDistrict, which includes the city of Lowell, and Cannon, Grattan, Oakfield and Vergennes townships.

The commission’s first order of business next week will be to elect its leadership. Koorndyk and Jim Saalfeld will be re-elected as commission chairman and vice chairman, respectively. 

Saalfeld will also become chairman of the county’s Finance Committee, while Carol Hennessy will retain the committee’s vice chair post. Michael Wawee will replace Saalfeld as chairman of the Legislative and Human Resources Committee. Shana Scroll will replace Wawee as the committee’s vice chairperson.

Hennessy is the lone Democrat in a leadership position.

In the coming year, the commission may create a new subcommittee. Delabbio said this one would look at the county’s agriculture preservation process. He said another subcommittee will focus on labor negotiations, as the county has four union agreements that expire at the end of 2014.

The county’s millage subcommittee will also meet next year. Delabbio said the ongoing group is likely to recommend that a request for a half-mill increase to the senior millage be put on the August ballot, a proposal the commission would have to approve. Millage supporters have made the request to the county.

The subcommittee is also likely to consider a millage that would support the county’s military veterans. If a millage is recommended, the proposal would go on the November ballot; the commission would have to approve the request by August.

“We can’t advocate for any millage, but we can provide information,” said Delabbio.

In addition, 2014 is an election year and all 19 commission seats will be on the ballot in November.

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