Changes Afoot at Washtenaw Road Commission

At their Oct. 2, 2013 meeting, Washtenaw County commissioners postponed a vote to appoint Barb Fuller to the Washtenaw County road commission. She was nominated by board chair Yousef Rabhi (D-District 8) to fill a seat vacated by Ken Schwartz when he took over as supervisor for Superior Township on Oct. 1. The position is for the remainder of a six-year term, through Dec. 31, 2018.

Dan Smith (R-District 2) asked whether Rabhi had received a letter of resignation from Schwartz. When it was determined that Schwartz hadn’t officially resigned, Smith moved to postpone action on the appointment until Oct. 16. The vote on the postponement was 6-3, over dissent from Rabhi, Rolland Sizemore Jr. (D-District 5) and Andy LaBarre (D-District 7).

In a separate vote, the county board created a new seven-member subcommittee to “explore partnerships and organizational interactions with the Washtenaw County Road Commission.” Members include four county commissioners – Alicia Ping (R-District 3), Conan Smith (D-District 9), Dan Smith (R-District 2) and Rolland Sizemore Jr. (D-District 5) – and three township supervisors: Mandy Grewal of Pittsfield Township, Ken Schwartz of Superior Township and Pat Kelly of Dexter Township. The resolution states that the subcommittee will be chaired by the county board’s vice chair. That position is currently held by Ping.

This resolution was considered late in the evening, at about 10:30 p.m. Conan Smith proposed an amendment that would give the subcommittee a $10,000 budget for possible research or travel costs to bring in experts on the issue. Andy LaBarre objected to the budget, which he said “doesn’t look good and isn’t needed.” The vote on the amendment to add the $10,000 budget passed on a voice vote. The final vote on the overall resolution, as amended, passed over dissent from LaBarre and Kent Martinez-Kratz (D-District 1).

In the past, county commissioners have discussed the possibility of expanding the three-member road commission, in part because of how its small size causes potential for violating the state’s Open Meetings Act. And some commissioners would like to explore possibly consolidating the road commission with overall county operations.

Currently, the road commission is a semi-autonomous entity that oversees the maintenance of about 1,650 miles of roads in the county that are outside of cities and villages, including about 770 miles of gravel roads. Road commissioners are appointed by the county board of commissioners, but decisions made by the road commission do not require authorization by the elected county board of commissioners.

Fuller, who lives in Manchester, previously served as deputy supervisor in Pittsfield Township from 2008-2012. She provides organizational management and consulting services, and has served in a variety of leadership roles for groups including the Washtenaw Community College Foundation Women’s Council and the Montessori School Board.

In her cover letter, Fuller cited her experience with funding and road-related issues while serving as Pittsfield Township’s deputy supervisor. Among her references were current road commissioner Doug Fuller and state Rep. David Rutledge (D-District 54), a former road commissioner. She is not related to Doug Fuller. [.pdf of Barbara Fuller's application materials]

Only two people applied for the vacancy. The other applicant was Lisa Solomon, an Ann Arbor resident and business analyst with the University of Michigan Parking & Transportation Services, with a master’s degree in urban and regional planning from UM.

Fuller would be the first woman to serve on the road commission since Pam Byrnes was appointed in 2000. Byrnes had been the first woman ever to serve on the road commission, but resigned before the end of her six-year term, when she was elected to the Michigan House of Representatives in 2004.

Other current road commissioners are Doug Fuller and Fred Veigel, who also is a member of the county’s parks & recreation commission. The salary for road commissioners, which is set by the county board, is $10,500 annually.

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