Kurt Prenzler is to be sworn in as Madison County Board chairman on Monday morning, as at least seven department heads will be clearing out of their offices and one more will re-enter the building after being barred from it for more than 18 months.
Prenzler is scheduled to be sworn in at 9 a.m. Monday. At noon, he intends to allow Veterans Assistance Commission Superintendent Bradley Lavite back into the building. Lavite has been barred from entering the county administration building since March 2015, when he had a mental breakdown that his doctors attributed to post-traumatic stress disorder relating to his combat service.
The Lavite case became an issue during the chairman’s campaign, with Dunstan in favor of requiring further assurances before allowing Lavite into his office, and Prenzler calling for the ban to be lifted.
A special reorganizational meeting of the Madison County Board has been scheduled for Monday evening, at which the new county board members will take their seats and committees will be assigned.
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At the same time, Prenzler apparently intends to fire at least seven department heads, including the county administrator, community development director, director of administrative services and several other department heads, including the animal control director.
Some of the appointees were people who openly supported Prenzler in the recent election where he defeated longtime incumbent chairman Alan Dunstan, replacing some people who supported Dunstan. Prenzler said the changes are not politically motivated.
“I think they are positive and necessary changes,” Prenzler said. “They’re based on performance, the talents and abilities and vision of the people going forward.”
Prenzler has proposed the following changes subject to confirmation by the county board:
▪ County Administrator Joseph Parente is to be replaced by current deputy treasurer Douglas Hulme, who was brought into the treasurer’s department under Prenzler in 2014. He holds a bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.
▪ Community Development Director Frank Miles is to be replaced by Kristen Poshard of Poshard Consulting, a public relations and political consulting firm in Edwardsville that previously worked for Nestle Purina and Madison County Recorder Amy Meyer. More recently, she has worked as transition team coordinator for laid-off workers in southern Illinois.
▪ Director of Administrative Services Barry Harris is to be replaced by Steve Adler, a Republican county board member who did not run for reelection in November and was a frequent critic of Dunstan’s administration. Adler was chairman of two committees and served on the board since 2004.
▪ Animal Control Director Dr. David Hall is to be replaced by Dr. Michael Firsching, a veterinarian and former Congressional candidate who worked with Prenzler on a number of political campaigns, including the successful referenda to stop the jail renovation bonds and reduce the county tax rate.
▪ Information Technology Director Timothy Renick is to be replaced by Rob Dorman, a Republican precinct committeeman who unsuccessfully ran for the Collinsville City Council last year and has been a frequent critic of Collinsville city administration. He has worked as information technology manager for tech firm DB Schenker, among others.
▪ Employment and Training Director David Stoecklin is being replaced by Harold Wathan Jr., who ran unsuccessfully for the county board’s District 28 seat as a Republican in November. He is a national sales director for Primerica Financial Services.
▪ Facilities Management Director Kurt Geschwend is being replaced by Christopher Doucleff, who has worked as an appraiser and business manager in a variety of capacities including commercial and residential construction.
Emergency management director Larry Ringering, safety and risk management director Annette Schoeberle and health department director Toni Corona were nominated to keep their positions.
Some departments are led by elected officials such as the county auditor or circuit clerk, while others were not part of the restructuring plan.
Prenzler also has nominated Candance Gilstrap to replace him as treasurer. She is currently a deputy in the treasurer’s office and has worked there for four years.
Lavite was subsequently declared fit to return to work by the PTSD specialist at the St. Louis Veterans Administration Medical Center. But the psychologist employed by the county disagreed, and county leaders then barred Lavite from the building, which included his office.
The VAC, which is an independent agency, sued the county to allow Lavite back in the building to access his office. The case was dismissed, but then reinstated by the 5th District Appellate Court and returned to Madison County. Madison County had filed a request for the VAC to submit to mediation over the issue. Meanwhile, Lavite has filed a separate federal lawsuit alleging that Madison County has violated his civil rights.
The board also will be restructured, with new committee assignments expected to reflect the new Republican majority on the board. The list of committee assignments and chairmanships was not available Sunday.