New Effingham County Board Chairman Jim Niemann said Monday he hopes to cut down on the number of times the full board has to meet each year.
While Niemann isn't proposing a cut in the number of official board meetings, he is hoping to slice the number of "committee of the whole" meetings that board members have to endure. On the chopping block are the Public Safety, Insurance or Buildings & Grounds committees.
While the committees would still meet, removing the committee of the whole status would mean only the three or four committee members would be able to vote.
"Public Safety meets quarterly anyway," Niemann said. "We don't need nine people for that, unless they want to come."
Niemann added neither the Insurance nor Buildings & Grounds meetings were meeting on a regular basis.
The Legislative and Tax & Finance committees would remain committees of the whole under Niemann's proposal. The committee of the whole concept was established several years ago after two-time board candidate Ed Hoopingarner claimed the board was not properly following parliamentary procedure.
While Niemann said he doesn't plan to call for any reduction in the number of the full board, he said Monday he would likely propose a time change from the current 4 p.m. start. He said a later starting time would give more people a chance to attend board meetings.
Niemann said after the meeting he would need a two-thirds, or 6-3, vote to remove those committees from committee of the whole status.
Niemann won a 5-4 vote for the chair on the first day of business for the reorganized board. The new fiscal year began Saturday.
After County Clerk Kerry Hirtzel swore in all nine board members, the new board voted 5-4 for Niemann to take the head of the table as chairman. Former chairwoman Carolyn Willenburg declined to run for re-election this year.
Niemann was supported by David Campbell, Lloyd Foster, Rob Arnold and Mike DePoister, as well as himself. The same five voted to install Campbell as vice chairman.
Board members Karen Luchtefeld, Jeff Simpson, Doug McCain and Joe Thoele supported Simpson for chairman, but didn't have the votes to make it happen.
The board had a 7-2 Republican majority, with Luchtefeld and McCain the only Democrats.
While Niemann and Willenburg didn't always agree on the issues, the new chairman had nothing but praise for his predecessor after his first stint at the head of the board table.
"I think Carolyn did a wonderful job, and I learned a lot from her," Niemann said.
The new chairman said he wanted the new board to work well together, even though he knows that 9-0 votes might be the exception to the rule.
"I want to be an inclusive as I possibly can," he said. "I want to include every single member.
"People on this board are honest, hard-working people," he said. "I know they will serve in the best interests of Effingham County."
Also Monday, Niemann distributed committee assignments. He will chair Legislative himself, as did Willenburg when she chaired the full board.
Arnold will take over Tax & Finance from Simpson, who will chair the Airport Committee. Other committee chairs include Depoister, Public Safety, and Ambulance Oversight; Foster, Buildings & Grounds; McCain, Health; Thoele, Road & Bridge; Luchtefeld, Reports; Campbell, Economic Development, and Personnel.
Bill Grimes can be reached at 217-347-7151, ext. 132, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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