Guest view: St. Clair County's selection process needs transparency

June 26, 2013 

At the June St. Clair 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 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 Holbrook's selection came quickly after the resignation of 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 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 he is the best qualified for the position. At least Sheriff Rick Watson had prior law enforcement experience when he was selected to replace the late Sheriff Mearl Justus. What experience does Holbrook have performing the many duties of a county clerk other than running for political office since 1981?

I will credit Holbrook for calling me early the day of the meeting and giving me an opportunity to ask him questions. 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 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 Watson, my "present" vote should not be perceived as an insult to Holbrook. I do wish 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 for everyone. I look forward to working with him to do so.

However, I will close by saying that just because the law says the final decision on whom to appoint to vacancies lies with the County Board chairman, it doesn't mean he has to perform that duty in secret. 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, R-Lebanon, represents District 4 on the St. Clair County Board.

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