At the June County Board meeting, Tom Holbrook became our new County Clerk. The vote was nearly unanimous, with only my “Present” vote dissenting. I wanted to take a brief moment and explain my thought process and why I opted to vote the way I did.
As is customary in these situations, when an elected official steps down for whatever reason, the County Board Chairman has the responsibility of finding a replacement and presenting that person before the full County Board for approval. By law the replacement must be of the same political party as the departing, Democrat in this case.
While I understand this is the law, I continue to have a problem with the process and how it is done in St. Clair County. There is absolutely no transparency or consideration of other qualified individuals. As with the appointment of our new sheriff, word of Mr. Holbrook’s selection came quickly after the resignation of Mr. Delaney. Less than 24 hours in fact. That timeframe inherently implies there was no time given for interested individuals to apply for the position. There was no time given to consider any of Mr. Delaney’s outstanding deputies, who have accrued years of on the job experience.
Just because an applicant is a nice guy or held higher office prior doesn’t mean they are the best qualified for the position they are currently being considered for. At least Mr. Watson had prior law enforcement experience when he was selected to replace Sheriff Justus. What experience does Mr. Holbrook have performing the many duties of a county clerk other than running for political office since 1981?
I will credit Mr. Holbrook for calling me the early the day of the meeting and giving me an opportunity to ask him any questions I had at the time. I took the opportunity to ask if he was quitting the Pollution Control Board and he told me he was on July 1. While it’s a little thing, I do appreciate the phone call. It’s the first time during my short time on the board that any of the appointees I’ve been asked to vote for has done that.
As with Sheriff Watson, my “Present” vote should not be perceived as an insult to Mr. Holbrook. I do wish Mr. Holbrook well in his new role. He seems genuinely interested in performing the duties of his new office in a non-partisan way, providing fair and honest elections to everyone. I look forward to working with him to do so.
However, I will finish by saying that just because the law says the final decision on who to appoint to vacancies lies with the County Board Chairman, doesn’t mean he has to perform that duty in secrecy. Sunlight and transparency never hurt anyone. They might make the whole process go a bit smoother and result in a better government for everyone. After all, isn’t that what we’re all supposed to be for?
Nick Miller, a Republican, is a St. Clair County Board member representing District 4 in Lebanon.