County Board Elects New Officers for 2013

At their first meeting of 2013, on Jan. 2, the candidates who won their races on Nov. 6, 2012 were sworn in as Washtenaw County commissioners. Because of redistricting that took effect with this latest election cycle, the new county board has nine commissioners instead of the 11 it had previously.

The commissioners were sworn in by Washtenaw County clerk Larry Kestenbaum. They are: Kent Martinez-Kratz (D-District 1), Dan Smith (R-District 2), Alicia Ping (R-District 3), Felicia Brabec (D-District 4), Rolland Sizemore Jr. (D-District 5), Ronnie Peterson (D-District 6), Andy LaBarre (D-District 7), Yousef Rabhi (D-District 8) and Conan Smith (D-District 9). All but two of the commissioners – Martinez-Kratz and LaBarre – are incumbents.

The board also elected its officers for the coming year. As anticipated, Rabhi was elected as the new chair, replacing Conan Smith, who has served in that role for the past two years. Rabhi, who was chair of the board’s working session in 2011 and 2012, had announced his intent to run for the board chair. Although there was no previous substantive discussion about Rabhi’s candidacy, Smith referred to Rabhi as the “chair elect” in an announcement last month regarding a selection panel for the regional transit authority board appointments, and in subsequent communications had indicated an assumption that Rabhi would be the next chair.

The vote on Rabhi as board chair was 8-1, with dissent by Dan Smith. Smith noted that in previous two-year officer election cycles, the board has rotated the position of chair between commissioners who represent urban and rural communities. But this year the board has broken with that tradition, he said, by electing as chair another Ann Arbor commissioner. [Conan Smith also represents one of the three Ann Arbor districts.] Rabhi responded by saying he wanted to set a tone of collaboration and cooperation, and looked forward to working with Dan Smith and other commissioners to help achieve their goals.

Also elected were Alicia Ping as vice chair, Felicia Brabec as chair of the board’s ways & means committee, and Andy LaBarre as chair of the working sessions. Dan Smith also dissented on the election of Brabec. It’s been the board’s custom to elect commissioners to the same leadership roles for two consecutive years, starting with the first year of their two-year terms. So it’s likely that these officers will serve in 2013 and 2014.

Based on increases to compensation that were approved by the board at their Dec. 2, 2012 meeting, the three chairs – Rabhi, Brabec and Labarre – will each make a base salary of $18,750. That’s $3,000 more than other commissioners. None of the positions are considered to be full-time jobs.

Also starting this year, commissioners will receive stipend payments based on the number of meetings that a commissioner is likely to attend for a particular appointment. One or two meetings per year would pay $50, three or four meetings would pay $100, and the amounts increase based on the number of meetings. Each commissioner typically has several appointments, so the new system will likely add several hundred dollars to their compensation. Commissioners will be able to waive their stipends by giving written notice to the county clerk. In the past, commissioners were eligible for per diem payments for attending certain meetings, but had to file for those payments after the fact. The stipend payments will be made automatically.

This brief was filed from the boardroom of the county administration building at 220 N. Main in Ann Arbor. A more detailed report will follow: [link]