The November winners of two seats on the Riley County Commission, Bob Boyd and Ron Wells, were sworn in to their seats Monday, replacing commissioners Karen McCulloh and Alvan Johnson.
The ceremony marked the first time in two decades that the Commission contains a majority of new members. That last occurred in January of 1993 when McCulloh and Jim Williams were elected, succeeding Richard Jepsen and John Sjo.
Judge Meryl Wilson swore in both Boyd and Wells on Monday morning with family, friends and county department heads in attendance. McCulloh and Johnson were both there to wish congratulations to the new commissioners as they took their places on the commission.
The new board appointed Commissioner Dave Lewis to be the chairman and Boyd as the vice-chair.
Boyd and Wells were also appointed to their new positions on the Riley County Law Enforcement board.
Wells, who now represents the third district, has been preparing himself by visiting different departments within the county, including the Riley County Health Department and ATA Bus. Wells said that he’s “been impressed,” with the work that’s being done between department heads and budgeting.
Wells took an especially close look at ATA bus, reading its operations manual and account audit for the 2012-13 year. He said that he “can do a better job managing the ATA” now that he has seen how the operation runs. He believes director Anne Smith is “doing a great job.” During Wells’ campaign he cited that he was supportive of the ATA bus system but was hoping the service would expand to areas such as the rural parts of the county and get more trips to the airports.
Wells’ long-term goals are to get some work done on the Wildcat Creek flooding issue, a main point of his campaign. He said that he is mainly going to take time to learn about the logistics of the seat and let Commissioner Dave Lewis take the lead on most issues, including the Metropolitan Planning Organization. As the only holdover on the commission, Lewis is expected to be named the new chairman Monday, although commissioners are free to select whichever of their number they want for that position.
Wells said Lewis will be the main one on the board for the MPO, but added that he will have a supportive role in that discussion and will be especially interested in how the organization’s funding will be delegated over the future years.
Wells believes that the changeover will be “seamless,” and doesn’t see his and Boyd’s natures — both more conservative than the departing McCulloh — to be that big of an issue. He also doesn’t see the new commission having a hard time getting issues taken care of. Wells said he’s known Lewis for a number of years and Boyd since the beginning of the election, and thinks they will do what’s best for the citizens of Riley County.
Boyd, who represents the second district, said he’s been learning as much as possible about the position but plans on learning the inner workings of the job after being sworn in.
“I campaigned on the premises that the county is operated very well,” Boyd said. “After two months of study and visiting, we are blessed to have the best county staff in the state.”
One of Boyd’s bigger issues was the efficiency of the Riley County Health department. Boyd said now that the department is officially part of the county he plans on taking a closer look in the beginning months of his term.
He also plans on having a closer working relationship with the MPO board, to which he was appointed Monday.
During his campaign, Boyd stated that he was also supportive of the ATA bus system, but was unsure of it being funded by the county.
“I like Anne Smith, the organization that is ATA and will support it and advise it when I can,” Boyd said. “I do not favor support for the fixed route system and I believe it can succeed on its own.”
Boyd also wants to look into the county’s space issues. He said that over the past two months, he has realized how short the county is on space for their staff.
“A decade from now we will have a serious shortage,” Boyd said. His idea is to start the planning process for gaining this space during his term.
For their first meeting Monday, the two new commissioners learned about the breakdown of extension and the Public Works departments. They also went into the different budget and expenditure reports with county clerk Rich Vargo.
Because of a prior commitment, the two new commissioners did not discuss the breakdown of their board assignments, planning to discuss that at a later date.