The nine Muskegon County Commissioners were sworn into office on Thursday, Jan. 3. Front row (l-r): Ken Mahoney, Charles Nash, Susie Hughes, Terry Sabo and Rillastine Wilkins. Back row (l-r): Bob Scolnik, Ben Cross, Marve Engle and Jim Derezinski.
The Muskegon County Board of Commissioners showed its support of leadership by unanimously re-electing Commissioner Ken Mahoney of Montague as its chair.
This year was different though, since former Commissioner John Snider was not there to run against him, as in previous years.
Mahoney, a Democrat, will lead the newly formed nine-person board, as chair for a one-year term for the fifth time.
District 2 Commissioner Ben Cross nominated Mahoney by motion, which was then seconded by District 7 Commissioner Jim Derezinski. No other commissioners were nominated for the position of chairman. Charles Nash, newly appointed commissioner for District 3, made a motion to unanimously vote Mahoney as chairman, which was then passed.
“I want to thank the commissioners for their support and with your help we can make this a much better county in the next year,” Mahoney said.
The board knew this year would bring a new vice-chairman, because Snider served in previous years. As with years passed, Derezinski nominated District 1 Commissioner Rillastine Wilkins as vice-chair. Last year, Wilkins was nominated but removed her name from the vote, but this year was voted in unanimously by the commissioners.
The new board is dominated by Democrats, with seven Democrats and only two Republicans. The commissioners also have new districts to represent, as the county has been re-districted due to the population changes recorded in the 2010 Census. The census showed a two percent increase in the County of Muskegon’s overall population. Within that data is also indication of a shift in population, where some districts gained residents, some lost residents and others remained stable.
Locally, Mahoney covers the entire cities of Whitehall and Montague; a portion of Dalton Township; and the townships of White River, Montague, Whitehall and Blue Lake.
New to the board this year is District 8 Commissioner Terry Sabo. He ran against Snider in the election and won the seat. Sabo covers Fruitland and Laketon Townships; the City of North Muskegon; and a portion of Dalton Township.
Commissioner Cross brought up the possibility of changing the meeting time from 3:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. so more community members may attend the meetings. While voting on the proposed meeting schedule for 2012, Cross voted to amend the schedule to state the time change to 4 p.m.
A few commissioners hadn’t heard about the proposed change, and wanted more information. Sabo asked about the security of the building, since the doors are locked at 5 p.m. Nash and Cross stated that they believed more people would attend the meetings if the time was changed.
“This is about the citizens,” Nash said. “They want to be at the meetings.”
The board decided to place the item on the next board’s agenda, so they could consult with the administrative staff to get their opinion on security and if there would be any financial obligations if the time was changed. The next full board meeting is Tuesday, Jan. 15.