Mahoney, Wilkins New County Board Chair and Vice-Chair; Meeting Time Change Discussed

Muskegon County’s Board of Commissioners will retain its chairman but will have a new vice-chair.

Those elected to the Muskegon County Board of Commissioners on Election Day 2011 held an organizational meeting on Thursday.

The newly sworn in board re-elected Ken Mahoney to the top spot with a unanimous voice vote.  Rillastine Wilkins received the vice-chairmanship in a unanimous voice vote as well.

The board’s last vice-chair, John Snider, was defeated in November’s election. Snider served multiple terms as vice-chair, with bipartisan support for his role.

Wilkins declined a nomination for vice-chair last year, citing the bipartisan benefit of re-electing the Republican John Snider to the role behind the Democrat Mahoney.

The new board will have two completely new faces, and one person returning to the board after being previously voted out.

Susie Hughes of District 3 and Terry Sabo of District 8 will join the board after defeating incumbents Scott Plummer and John Snider, respectively, back in November. Charles Nash of District 6 served on the board until two years ago, when Anthony Longmire defeated him. Nash ran again in 2011 and defeated Longmire to reclaim his seat, though he now represents a slightly different territory of the county.

The changing board also has two fewer commissioners starting this year.  When Muskegon County’s apportionment commission worked on redistricting last year based on 2010 Census data, the previous board voted to reduce the number of commissioners from eleven to nine, partially as a cost-cutting measure.

The board’s contraction and several incumbent upsets have pushed the board’s overall party affiliation more toward the Democratic Party. Before the election the board had four Republicans and seven Democrats, and while a Democrat and a Republican were both eliminated by the contraction, Sabo’s defeat of Snider creates a 7-2 Democratic majority. Returning commissioners Bob Scolnik and Marve Engle are the two Republicans on the new board.

Thursday’s organizational meeting also included the adoption of the board’s rules for the coming year, the approval of board standing committee chairs and vice chairs, authority motions that allow the county administrator to perform certain legal settlements on behalf of the board, and the calendar for the board’s 2013 meetings.

The 2013 calendar discussions included a motion by commissioner Cross to move back board meeting times from 3:30 p.m. until 4 p.m. Cross stated that he spoke to numerous constituents over the last two years about the matter, and he stated more county residents will be able to attend meeting later in the day.  He also noted the matter was previously raised by former commissioner Alan Jager two years but “fell on deaf ears”.

“I think it would be a wise decision to compromise,” said Cross. “It’s only a half hour, and I don’t believe it will cost the county any money.”

Commissioner Nash supported the idea.

“We’ve heard over the years how citizens want to be at the meetings,” said Nash. “Maybe this will help, but maybe it won’t. But we can try it for a year and renegotiate again.”

Commissioners Sabo, Engle, Derezinski all expressed surprise at the motion to amend the meeting time, but none stated it was a bad idea. Instead, their discussion led to a motion pushing the amendment discussion until the next full board meeting, at 3:30 p.m. on January 15.

Andrew Trzaska

103.7 “The Beat” – local government beat reporter and political analyst