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We need an interim commissioner

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By Lou Elliott Jones, Editor

We live in Levy County where only three of our five county commissioners are on the job.

And Tuesday proved to be the day some folks learned what could happen if one of those three was unable to carry out their duties.

Folks were gathered for the regular meeting of the commission. But Chair Nancy Bell was not there.

Folks waited and fidgeted and wondered aloud where she was. Did something happen to her?

Within 15 minutes word spread that the frosty temperatures — it had dropped to the 20s the night before — had taken their toll. Bell was trying to deal with frozen pipes at her home.

She arrived almost immediately after and got right down to work.

But the scene of two commissioners sitting on the dais with their lawyer and three empty seats was worrisome.

And it showed that Gov. Charlie Crist might need to give serious consideration to looking over the list of applicants for the commissioner’s post and appointing someone.

Flatly put, this county is one bad case of flu or a one heart attack away from coming to a standstill.

Crist was entirely within his right to suspend the two commissioners indicted on conspiracy to commit bribery and bribery charges.

The two are to be considered innocent until proven guilty, but any decision they would have made under the cloud of the indictment and pending trial would have been called into question.

But it is more than two months later and their trial has been put off from December to February and may be put off even longer.

It is time for at least one interim appointment to be made. Call it an insurance policy appointment.

Commissioners do more than meet twice a month. They serve on other boards and advisory committees and commissions and deal with legislators and other officials in order to accomplish the business of the county. And these three have been doing the work of five.

In Tuesday’s meeting, the commission needed to name one of the trio to replace the suspended commissioners on two boards. When Commissioner Lilly Rooks nominated Bell and Commissioner Danny Stevens seconded the motion, Bell asked Stevens to take the job. He declined.

As the vote was taken, Clerk of Court Danny Stevens asked Bell, “Was that a no vote?”

“No, it was a grimace,” Bell replied.

God forbid something happens to this trio.

But then again, we don’t need to wait until something happens. We need an interim commissioner.

And asking for two is not too much.

Lou Jones is the news editor of the Chiefland Citizen. You may reach her at news@chieflandcitizen.com.